Police: Husband killed wife after argument in NE Philadelphia, lied about home invasion

May 7, 2013 2:47:30 PM PDT
The husband of a 74-year-old woman murdered in Northeast Philadelphia has confessed to killing her and lying to cover it up, police say.

Philadelphia Police tell Action News 75-year-old Louis Hartdegen confessed to authorities Monday night that he killed his wife Judith.

Police confirm that Hartdegen made up a home invasion story and accused another man of the crime.

At a news conference Tuesday morning, Philadelphia Police Captain James Clark credited astute detectives with seeing through Hartdegen's story and getting to the truth.

"He tried to 'outslick' us, but he did not," said Clark. "He tried very hard to set up the crime scene to make it appear someone else did this."

Clark said after several hours of questioning during which he was confronted with inconsistencies in his story, Hartdegen finally told investigators what happened.

He told police that he and his wife of 53 years got into a heated argument Monday, that he struck her several times, then suffocated her.

Clark said in addition to facial and neck wounds, Hartdegen had some bruises and scratches on his hands, which police believe came as his wife tried to fight him off.

After his wife was dead, Clark said, Hartdegen arranged the crime scene to make it appear that someone else committed the crime.

He tried to blame the murder on a 26-year-old neighbor.

"Mr. Hartdegen told police that his neighbor had entered his apartment through a rear window, sexually assaulted and suffocated his wife, then beat him and fled from that location," said Clark.

Clark said police took the neighbor into custody and questioned him for several hours Monday.

From the start, said Clark, the neighbor was adamant that he had nothing to do with Judith Hartdegen's death. As detectives checked out the details of his story, they began to question Hartdegen's version of events.

Eventually, they say, Hartdegen confessed and the neighbor was released.

Hartdegen is currently hospitalized, Clark said. He was arrested and charged at the hospital and is now under 24-hour police guard.


During a vigil Monday night for Judith, word spread of her husband's confession had already spread.

"I don't believe it. From me seeing them a few times that I've been over here visiting, they were very happy," neighbor Jamie Padillia said.

"It doesn't make sense, why would he do that to somebody he loved? They were inseparable," neighbor Kristin Ruiz said.

The developments, however, are not so shocking after a glimpse of Lou Hartdegen's criminal record.

Court records show the 75-year-old was convicted of burglary, larceny and other related charges in 1970 and guilty of incest in 1990.

Still, neighbors refused to believe Lou Hartdegen allegedly killed his wife.

They say the two were a loving couple for over five decades and he is too fragile to commit such a heinous crime.

"I can't fathom that. There's no way. He couldn't walk. The guy would shuffle when he walked," Reverend Robert Bey of Oxford Circle said.

But sources say he could kill.

Police were called to the home on the 6700 block of Castor Avenue around 2:20 a.m. Monday.

Judith was found dead on scene.

Her husband had facial and neck injuries, but sources say his story quickly began to unravel and detectives began to zero in on him as a suspect.

"She was just a wonderful person and to hear this, I just cannot comprehend," Bey said.