Surveillance released in Kensington assault

PHILADELPHIA - December 9, 2010

On Thursday evening, Philadelphia police released surveillance video of a suspect wanted for an aggravated assault in Kensington and who, police say, is a person of interest in the 'Kensington Strangler' case.

The incident began around 2:10 a.m. on December 6th in the 2600 block of Kensington Avenue in Philadelphia's Kensington section.

Investigators say the 33-year-old victim was approached by the man who walked with her for a short distance.

Then, police say the man grabbed her by the hair and pulled her into an alleyway at 1800 E. Sergeant Street. The man choked her, punched her and hit her in the head with a brick.

During the struggle, police say the man also tried to stab the woman with pair of scissors, but the victim was able to take the scissors from him.

The man is described as a black male aged 20 to 24 standing between 5'7" and 5'11" tall and weighing 160 to 170 pounds. Police say he had facial hair that was unshaven on the sides. He wore a dark colored puffy coat, a dark sweatshirt under the coat and faded black jeans. He had a distinctive walk and carried an iPod.

"I would say to you this, that anyone who knows this male and looks at this video is going to be absolutely sure that this is the guy," Philadelphia Police Captain John Darby said.

Late Thursday morning, police converged on a Community Legal Services office in the 3600 block North Broad Street.

A deeply upset receptionist called police and told them a man had just been there and he resembled a sketch of the "Kensington Strangler." She told police the man came in telling her he was being sought by police and needed a lawyer. He told her he was homeless and was living in an abandoned house.

When she tried to subtly signal a coworker to call the cops, he fled out the door.

Police, including Homicide, Special Victims, and the Crime Scene Unit, scoured the office, including fingerprinting everything the man might have touched.

Two women have died at the hands of the strangler and several others survived recent attacks of a similar nature.

Elaine Goldberg was found dead on November 3rd in a vacant lot in the 2800 Block of Ruth Street. Nicole Piacentini was found dead in the doorway of an abandoned building in the 1900 Block of East Cumberland on November 13th. Both had been beaten, sexually assaulted, and strangled.

In early October, a 30-year-old woman was choked to the point of unconsciousness in the 1900 Block of East Cumberland in the same spot where Piacentini's body was found. She was the first to help police generate a composite sketch showing the man with a goatee and mark on his face.

On October 31st, a woman was choked into unconsciousness in the 1800 block of E. Sergeant Street. She identifies the man in the sketch as the man who attacked her.

Then the December 6th attack occurred. The victim helped police develop a new sketch of a suspect without a goatee or mark on his face. Immediately after she was assaulted, the woman told police, "I was just attacked by the 'Kensington Strangler'."

The surviving victims tell police that the suspect is soft-spoken. He told one of the victims that his name is Anthony.

A special task force is reviewing other attacks in the area including one near Kensington and Allegheny on Tuesday morning. The victim described the suspect differently from the man depicted in the sketches.

A police source tells Action News that the death of a 30-year-old woman on Tuesday night in the Kensington section of Philadelphia is not connected to the 'Kensington Strangler.' The source says police made that determination because the victim did not suffer any trauma.

Police have also ruled out the murder of 22-year-old Allison Edwards as having a connection to the strangler. They have questioned a person of interest in the case who does not fit the profile of the strangler.

The task force is working around the clock to try to find the killer. They have collected DNA samples from dozens of men arrested for soliciting prostitutes in Kensington in recent weeks. So far, none of the samples matches that of the suspect. Also, the suspect's DNA does not come up in a national database. The FBI is helping the Philadelphia Police task force create a profile of the killer as they try to figure out his motivation.

"They will try and develop a picture of the behavioral and personality characteristics that this offender might typically display," FBI Special Agent J.J. Klaver said.

Police emphasize the released sketches are "a guideline." They want to hear from anyone who sees anything out of the ordinary. They also urge women in the area to take precautions to stay safe and report any attacks immediately.

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