THERE WASN'T a body inside the Strawberry Mansion house where detectives were called by a terrified resident Wednesday night, but the bloody sheets, tarps and gloves that were there made it clear that a gruesome discovery would be made somewhere, sooner or later.
It didn't take long.
Crime Scene Unit cops and members of the city Medical Examiner's Office found dismembered human remains yesterday scattered across a weeded lot at York Street and Sedgley Avenue, about a mile away from the grisly rowhouse that cops visited earlier in the week.
Police sources told the Daily News that the remains belonged to a male prostitute dressed as a woman who allegedly had been picked up in North Philly last weekend by Charles Sargent, 43, who lives at the property on 32nd Street near Diamond where police found the bloody sheets.
Sources said Sargent's girlfriend arrived at the house early Sunday and found her boyfriend naked at the top of the steps. He allegedly yelled at her that she wasn't supposed to have come home.
As the girlfriend pretended to sleep in the living room that morning, she saw Sargent drag what appeared to be a body wrapped in sheets down the stairs, according to police records obtained by the Daily News. When Sargent suspected that his girlfriend saw what he was doing, he poked her in the head and threatened, "This is going to be you next. You and your children."
Sargent left the house only to return with an ax, plastic wrap and a hazmat suit. He dragged the body to the basement and started blasting music from a radio, police records said, but the girlfriend told investigators the music couldn't drown out the sickening sound of loud thuds that emanated from the basement for more than an hour.
The girlfriend later searched the house, and made one revolting find after another.
On the second floor of the house, sources said, the girlfriend saw blood spattered across the carpet, a blood-soaked mattress and towel and bags stuffed with jean booty shorts, a pair of pink flip-flops, a wig and an empty wine bottle.
She checked the basement Monday when Sargent went to work and found the ax and several duct-taped asbestos-removal bags, according to police records.
Scared of what Sargent may do to her, the woman kept quiet about what she had found but documented it, sources said.
Police were finally called to the house Wednesday night when another resident of the house stumbled upon the bloody items.
Sargent wasn't at the house when police arrived and discovered the blood-covered blanket and tarp in a trash can outside. In the basement, sources said, officers also found a hazmat suit and a pair of bloodied yellow gloves in trash bags.
Police yesterday tracked down the accused madman, who according to court records also goes by the alias Nolan McBride, and took him to Police Headquarters for questioning.
No criminal charges were filed against him as of last night, but sources told the Daily News that he confessed to the slaying and led them to the overgrown field where he stashed the chopped-up body.
About 1:30 p.m., police spokesman Lt. John Stanford said, investigators began to find remains there. About two hours into the search, police found the victim's head.
The victim has not yet been identified.
Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said he visited the North Philadelphia site where investigators conducted their search.
"We have an individual in Homicide now. He's the one who told us where we could find the body," Ramsey said last night. "It's a huge vacant lot with weeds that are 3-to-4-feet high. The body was dismembered, and various parts were found in different places."
Court records show that Sargent has a lengthy criminal record.
In 1990 he was convicted on charges of aggravated assault, carrying firearms in public and manufacturing or possessing a controlled substance. The drug and gun charges landed him a two- to five-year prison sentence, while the aggravated assault charge netted a five- to 10-year sentence.
Six years later, Sargent pleaded guilty to attempting to escape from custody and was given a three- to 24-month sentence, according to the records.
Sargent was arrested in 2003 on charges that included rape, sexual assault and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, but the charges were later dropped, the records show.