Flames blaze as elderly woman murdered

March 20, 2009 8:28:24 PM PDT
Philadelphia Police are investigating the murder of an elderly woman in a Tioga-Nicetown residence late Friday afternoon. It happened just before 6:00 p.m. in the 2100 block of West Erie Street.

Fire crews responded to a fire in the residence.

The fire was put under control in less than 10 minutes.

After entering the burning row home, firefighters found 74-year-old Reba Murphy unconscious in a second floor bathroom. They pulled her out of the smoke and flames and began CPR.

Soon, they realized she'd been stabbed multiple times in the chest and back.

She was pronounced dead at Temple University Hospital.

"When the neighbors told me I really couldn't believe it; it's devastating," friend Sayeeda Abdulla said.

"I'm sad, I don't know what to say, it really hasn't sunk in," neighbor Wilhelmina Simmons said.

Philadelphia Police quickly developed a suspect.

She's a 23-year-old woman who lived in the home, but investigators are not releasing her name.

Sources say she's the girlfriend of one of Murphy's grandsons.

Police were called to the home earlier in the day. The unidentified suspect was armed with a knife.

"Mrs. Reba went to get a restraining order on her and it's probably retaliation for that," Simmons said.

Friends and neighbors say Murphy was an Erie Avenue staple.

She lived here for 3 decades and was always willing to provide a helping hand.

"She was beautiful person, a churchgoing person, always looked out for the neighbors," Abdulla said.

"Whoever is responsible, turn yourself in because it's not right. Who are you to take someone's life?" neighbor Cassandra Simmons said.

Philadelphia police have ruled the fire an accident.

Investigators believe Murphy may have been cooking when she was killed.

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