Vigil held for Kensington strangling victim as attacker is at large

20101211_inq_pstrangle11-c
Toni Nazarlan (kneeling), aunt of Nicole Piacentini , at the memorial with Darrah Goldberg, mother of another victim, Elaine Goldberg. Her body was found 10 days before Piacentini's.

With white candles in hand, about 100 people huddled in the chill Friday night around a vacant lot in Kensington where Nicole Piacentini's body was found a few weeks ago.

The overgrown weeds, shrubs, and garbage that filled the lot a few weeks ago were mostly gone. A memorial had been set against a tree with Piacentini's high school graduation portrait, candles, and a teddy bear. Next to the memorial a large sign read "RIP Nicole."

The vigil was held near the intersection of Jasper and Cumberland Streets, where Piacentini's body was found on Nov. 13, just 10 days after Elaine Goldberg's body was found less than a mile away. Goldberg was 21 and Piacentini was 35. DNA has linked both women to the same killer.

"He's a monster, he needs to be caught," said Goldberg's mother, Darrah. She was her only daughter; she also has two teenage sons.

"I'm just angry. I want him to be caught," said Piacentini's mother, Christine.

Three other women, who were assaulted and choked in the Kensington neighborhood since early October, have described similar features of their attacker, leading police to believe the cases could be related.

However, police have not said whether the man depicted in a sketch compiled from the women's descriptions is the same man suspected of killing Piacentini and Goldberg.

Relatives of the two slain women, residents of the area, and representatives from support groups gathered Friday evening for a short vigil and then walked as a group for a few blocks.

The vigil was a last-minute idea orchestrated by the New Kensington Community Development Corp. to show "that we care about our neighborhood," said board member and event organizer A.J. Thomson. After the vigil and walk, people chatted.

Megan Colon, 24, whose house has windows facing the lot where Piacentini was found, said she was scared to walk around the neighborhood in which she grew up.

"It's crazy," she said of the killings.

Colon attended the vigil with her mother and some other relatives, all of whom grew up in the vicinity.

"Unless we're together, we won't go," she said about pairing up.

Thomson said he hoped people would not avoid Kensington. His group is trying to encourage people to go out and have a beer or coffee in neighborhood establishments to create "a more positive street presence."

The attacker in the police sketch is described by one of the surviving victims as a slender, light-skinned African American or Latino man in his late 20s.

He stands between 5-foot-6 and 5-foot-10, and has a mark on his cheek and a goatee. At one point, he was described as wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt and blue denim cargo pants.

Anyone with information regarding the case is being asked to call police at 215-546-8477.


Contact staff writer Claudia Vargas at 856-779-3917 or cvargas@phillynews.com.