Philadelphia police are probing whether two overnight crimes — a suspicious death and an indecent assault — could be linked to the elusive Kensington strangler who police suspect in two slayings and five other assaults on prostitutes.
Commissioner Charles Ramsey led a news conference this morning in which he urged citizens, especially those in Kensington, to immediately report assaults or suspicious activity. Still, he urged residents to avoid panic and warned against assuming all attacks are the strangler’s work.
“All of you know we have more than one criminal in the city of Philadelphia, so it is not a foregone conclusion that this is the same individual who has done all of these things,” Ramsey said. “We don’t know. We’re not saying it is. We’re not saying it isn’t. But if someone is assaulted, it’s imperative that they contact us immediately.”
In the overnight incidents, police found a dead 30-year-old white woman about 8 p.m. last night in an abandoned house on Rutledge Street near Indiana. The Medical Examiner’s Office is expected today to rule on the cause and manner of death. The woman had slight bruising around her neck, homicide Capt. James Clark said. And on Cornwall Street near E, an unknown man approached two women, started a conversation and indecently assaulted one. When the women fled to their home, the man forced his way inside, where the women’s male roommate fought him and held him until police arrived. That attacker, who favors the composite of the Kensington strangler, is in custody and has been swabbed for DNA, said Capt. John Darby of the special victims unit.
Police initially suspected the Kensington strangler in the strangulation murder of a 22-year-old woman found dead Friday on Glendale Street near Erie Avenue in Juniata Park. But this morning, homicide Capt. James Clark said detectives now do not believe that Allison Edwards’ case is related because “the circumstances are different,” although he declined to elaborate. Police have a person of interest in the case, Clark added.
Ramsey assured nervous citizens that nabbing the strangler is a police priority. The department sent details on all the crimes to FBI profilers and have entered the cases in a national database to uncover possible links to cases elsewhere, Ramsey said. Detectives also are eyeballing cold cases for potential ties, he added.
“We’ve made hundreds of car stops and (pedestrian) stops in the area,” Ramsey said. “We’ve taken more than 60 swabs for DNA analysis from individuals that we’ve arrested for soliciting prostitutes. More than 80 individuals have been taken into custody at this time; about 18 prostitutes have actually been arrested. We’re reaching out to informants we have in that area. So there’s a great deal that’s taking place in terms of trying to zero in on who might be responsible for this.”