The Kensington Strangler got his day in court last week. He also got a lifetime behind bars.
Make that three lifetimes.
Antonio Rodriguez, 23, was convicted on Aug. 16 of raping and strangling a Port Richmond resident and two other women in late 2010.
Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Minehart sentenced Rodriguez to three life terms without parole to be served consecutively after listening to tearful testimony from victims’ relatives.
Leo Keller told the court his stepdaughter, Nicole Piacentini of Port Richmond, left behind four children when she was killed Nov. 13, 2010.
He said he knew she battled for her life.
“She was a tough little fighter,” Keller said, referring to Assistant District Attorney Carlos Vega’s assertion that the 35-year-old woman struggled with Rodriguez as he assaulted and choked her.
Piacentini was the Kensington Strangler’s second victim.
Elaine Goldberg, 21, of Holme Circle in the Northeast was found dead Nov. 3, 2010, in a vacant Kensington lot. She had been raped, strangled, assaulted again after death and then posed, Vega told the court.
The same was done to Piacentini, Vega said, and then on Dec. 15 to Casey Mahoney, 27, of East Stroudsberg, Pa.
DNA evidence taken from Goldberg and Piacentini established for police that the same man was responsible for murders, police said. After Mahoney was killed, police were able to match the DNA samples and through them identify Rodriguez as the killer.
A sample taken from him after his late January 2010 arrest was a match for the samples taken from the victims.
Rodriguez confessed to the crimes, at first timidly, and then proudly, Vega told the court.
Rodriguez’s attorney, William Bowe, earlier last week asked Minehart to suppress his client’s confession, but the judge denied the motion.
For family members, the Aug. 16 verdict and sentencing came long after the shock of hearing of the murders.
Two of the families came together while police still were seeking the Strangler.
On Dec. 17, 2010, about a month after Piacentini was found in a lot at Jasper and Cumberland streets, Piacentini and Goldberg’s friends and family members gathered for a candlelight vigil and cleaned the lot.
Christine Piacentini, Nicole’s mother, that night said she was sure the murderer would be caught.
“They’ll catch him,” she said.
In a month, Rodriquez was captured.
He should have been under arrest sooner, Mahoney’s aunt and stepmother, Merri Kanzenberg of Long Island, N.Y., complained to Minehart before he passed sentence.
“He was apprehended long after he should have been,” she said bitterly.
“This is just a horrific case,” the judge said, looking at the defendant. “You violated them after they were dead.”
Rodriguez also was found guilty of three charges of rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and abuse of a corpse. His sentences for those crimes will run concurrently with his murder sentences, Minehart said.
“The evidence was overwhelming,” Vega said, pointing to the confessions and the DNA matches.
Before court proceedings began on Aug. 16, Piacentini’s mother wondered aloud why the case was not over yet since police had DNA evidence and Rodriguez had confessed. It was that morning, however, that testimony on autopsy results and DNA evidence were presented.
The defendant did not testify and his attorney did not present any witnesses. Because Rodriguez had agreed to a non-jury trial, the death penalty was not sought, according to the DA’s office.
Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org.