Cops: Couple killed by men they employed

Justen Smith, left, and Terry Ballard, right, have been charged with the double murder of Rufus Perry and his wife, Algladys at their Strawberry Mansion home last week.

An elderly Strawberry Mansion couple was killed last week by two young workers they had hired to clean their home - and they had known one of the men since he was just a young boy, according to police.

The deaths of Rufus and Agladis Perry, who were found by one of their daughters around 1 a.m. Thursday in a stairwell of their home on Spangler Street near Sergeant, were initially a mystery, as police said their bodies showed no apparent signs of trauma.

But at a press conference today, Homicide Capt. James Clark said the couple did have obvious abrasions to their faces and necks when then were found.

Clark identified the alleged killers as Terry Ballard, 26, and Justen Smith, 19. He said Ballard lives with his grandmother, who was best friends with the victims and lived around the corner from their home. Rufus, 79, and Agladis, 66, had hired Ballard and his friend to do some "odds and end work" around their house, Clark said.

The men were let into the house by the couple and at some point Agladis Perry found one of the two men going through an envelope of money she kept in the kitchen and confronted him. That's when he choked her, Clark said. When her husband tried to come to her aid, the other man choked him, Clark said. Both victims were also suffocated with a pillow, according to police.

In the end, all the men took from the house as $120 and a gold chain, Clark said.

Investigators were led to the men by a neighbor who said that they had seen the men in the couple's backyard the day of the killing. Clark said after the neighbor informed the police of what he or she had seen, officers went around the corner and found Ballard and Smith "just talking." They brought the men into police headquarters, where they confessed to the "brutal and senseless" double murder, Clark said. 

Both men have been charged with two counts of murder, robbery and related offenses.

While Ballard is originally from the Strawberry Mansion area and currently lives on Huntingdon Street near 34th with his grandmother, Smith is listed as being from Glen Campbell, Pa., which is about 15 miles south of Punxsutawney. A police spokeswoman said she did not know what Smith was doing in the Philadelphia area.