No death penalty for accused Kensington strangler

Everything is relative and for Antonio Rodriguez -- the 23-year-old charged as the “Kensington Strangler” who killed three women in November and December of 2010 -- this year is looking up.

After almost a year hashing out pretrial issues with defense lawyers and Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner, the District Attorney’s office has decided not to pursue the death penalty if Rodriguez is found guilty of first-degree murder.

At the same time, Rodriguez and defense attorney William L. Bowe have agreed not to demand a jury trial.

According to court records, the agreement between Bowe and Assistant District Attorney Carlos Vega was memorialized on Jan. 5 at a hearing before Lerner. Lerner then randomly “spun” the case to a homicide trial judge.

Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart has scheduled the nonjury trial for Aug. 13 at the city’s Criminal Justice Center.

For months Bowe and experts for both sides have been studying whether the case against Rodriguez, who has a history of mental illness, was appropriate for the death penalty, which the District Attorney’s office said it would seek at the preliminary hearing last February. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states may not execute people who are mentally retarded or are not mentally competent to understand what they are doing and the significance of their legal situation.

Rodriguez remains in prison without bail pending trial.

Authorities have alleged that Rodriguez frequented the Kensington Avenue corridor, preying on drug-addicted women who worked as prostitutes along the avenue. He is accused of killing Elaine Goldberg, 21; Nicole Piacentini, 35; and Casey Mahoney, 27.



A personal note: The Crime & Punishment blog has been a little thin for the last month. As readers of The Inquirer’s obituaries may have noticed, my father and namesake died Jan. 4 of brain cancer at age 85. His last two months were pretty tough, but he died at home with my mother, his wife of 63 years. Rest in peace, Dad.