Funeral home finds rope in Roxborough woman's throat

June 25, 2012 5:53:52 AM PDT
A Philadelphia woman, thought to have died from natural causes, was found to be a murder victim after a gruesome discovery by a funeral home.

A woman from Roxborough is under arrest for the murder of her neighbor Thursday night following an unusual discovery by the funeral director.

It all began after the victim, 70-year-old Kathleen McEwan, died at her home on June 10th. Initially, officials thought her death was due to natural causes.

However, morticians at the Bryers Funeral Home in Willow Grove, who were preparing McEwan's body for the funeral, found rope and a candy wrapper in her throat.

"During that time when we went to close her mouth, her tongue was sticking out a little. So I pushed her tongue back in and the rope popped right out," said funeral director Brian Hurst. "I thought maybe it was just something she was chewing on or something. I went to move it, had some resistance to it, stopped, realized something was wrong and called the Philadelphia Medical Examiner."

McEwan was discovered dead at her residence at the Parker Apartments in the 300 block of Parker Avenue in Roxborough.

There were no signs of foul play, so authorities released her body to the funeral home. But the medical examiner would later rule her death a homicide after they found a 10 inch rope, similar to what might be used for drawstring pants or a hoodie. They also found a candy wrapper stuffed down her throat.

After further investigation, homicide detectives arrested 50 year old Geraldine Cherry, a neighbor of the decedent.

"The thing that really gets me is, if she had been cremated, no one would have ever known," said Hurst.

Neighbors were shocked when they learned what really happened to Ms. McEwan.

"I think it's sick," said Daniel Frank. "I mean if I knew this was going to happen, I would have never moved in a place like this."

"That's scary, that's like totally insane. This is a good area, I don't know, makes me not want to live here anymore. I have 2 little children upstairs," said Josh Bowyer.

Police believe Geraldine Cherry was an acquaintance of Ms. McEwan. They had known each other for a little while. The last thing neighbors would expect is that she would be charged with her murder.

Cherry faces charges of murder and other related offenses. A preliminary hearing has been set for July 11th.

There was no immediate word on a motive in this crime.