Police charge suspect in Kensington stranglings

Pictured: Antonio Rodriguez, who was formally charged on January 20, 2011 with three murders connected to the so-called 'Kensington Strangler.' He was arrested on January 17, 2011, just minutes after police publicly identified him as a person of interest in the case.

January 20, 2011 11:00:48 AM PST
Authorities in Philadelphia say a transient linked by DNA to the stranglings of three young women in a gritty city neighborhood last year has been formally charged.

Police say prosecutors have approved charges against 22-year-old Antonio Rodriguez, who was arraigned Thursday on three counts each of murder, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and abuse of a corpse.

Rodriguez was arrested Monday on an unrelated bench warrant after police said they were seeking him in the deaths of Elaine Goldberg, Nicole Piacentini and Casey Mahoney. All were in their 20s and had struggled with drug addiction. Their bodies were found between early November and mid-December in vacant lots in the Kensington section of the city.

Prison officials say Rodriguez had been jailed on drug charges June 5 and released on bail Aug. 19; he pleaded guilty Oct. 21 in that case but was immediately paroled and given one year of probation.

Officials have said the DNA match was delayed by a case backlog and by needed computer upgrades at the DNA testing database. A DNA sample received Oct. 25 from Rodriguez as part of standard routine for all felons was added to the backlog of about 5,000 cases, according to Maj. Kenneth F. Hill, director of the state police's Bureau of Forensic Services.

Officials began processing it Dec. 21, and testing was further delayed from Dec. 27 through Jan. 3 because of needed server upgrades, Hill wrote in a Monday letter to Philadelphia police. About a month earlier, on Nov. 22, Philadelphia police had given state police crime-scene DNA from the stranglings, 19 days after the first victim's body was found.

Investigators are still trying to determine where Rodriguez lived while he was free, but they have said they believe he moved from place to place in the area and stayed in abandoned homes.

Rodriguez remained in custody and it was unclear whether he had an attorney.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.