Police: Man arrested for murders of 2 women in 1989

Police on Wednesday arrested a suspect in the 25-year-old murders of two Philadelphia women. 

Rudolph Churchill, of Paulsboro, N.J., was taken into custody Wednesday morning. Investigators said he’ll be charged with two counts of homicide. 

Churchill is accused of strangling to death two women, whose bodies were found in North Philadelphia during two separate incidents in 1989.

On March 17, 1989, officers responded to a lot at 15th and Thompson streets for a rape in progress. There, they found a woman’s body lying on the rear floor of an Oldsmobile that was surrounded by abandoned vehicles.

The victim was identified through fingerprints as 19-year-old Ruby Ellis, of the 2500 block of West Girard Avenue. Investigators determined Ellis had been beaten and strangled to death, but a motive was never uncovered and no arrests were immediately made. 

Just over a month later, on April 23, officers were called to the 1200 block of West Girard Avenue. They found a decomposed female body on the second floor of a bar that had been burned-out and vacant for months.

Police said the victim had a shoestring tied around her neck and a sock stuffed in her mouth. She was identified through fingerprints as 33-year-old Cheryl Hanible, of the 2100 block of South 58th Street. Investigators determined her cause of death to be ligature strangulation. 

Again, a motive was never revealed, and no arrests were made until Wednesday.

Police said DNA was recovered from at least one of the crime scenes, and that a search of the national FBI database turned up a positive match to a convicted offender from Georgia. Further investigation allegedly revealed the suspect lived in New Jersey. 

According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, Churchill was released from state prison in July of 2008 after serving nearly 1 ½ years for a burglary conviction.

Homicide detectives contacted Churchill and, through a search and seizure warrant, obtained another DNA sample from him, according to investigators.

Police said that, based on the results and other evidence, a warrant was approved for Churchill’s arrest.

Churchill was in 1986 sentenced to two years of probation after being convicted of burglary and illegal weapons charges out of Gloucester County, court records indicate.

The man also racked up several prior arrests in Philadelphia.

Churchill received probation in 1989 after pleading guilty to charges of simple assault and theft by unlawful taking.

He was arrested in August 2003 and again in October 2009 and charged with various offenses, including burglary, trespassing and theft. Charges were each time withdrawn, court records state.

According to court documents, Churchill most recently appeared in a Philadelphia courtroom following a public urination charge in April 2010. That charge was withdrawn two years later.

Contact Alex Wigglesworth at 215-854-2305 or awigglesworth@philly.com. Follow @phila_lex on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; BreakingNewsDesk@philly.com. Follow @phillynews on Twitter.