Northeast Times

‘Kensington Strangler’ guilty, will serve three lifetimes

A Port Rich­mond moth­er of four was among Ant­o­nio Rodrig­uez’s three vic­tims. For his crimes, he’ll spend the rest of his life in pris­on.

In this un­dated handout photo provided by the Phil­adelphia Po­lice De­part­ment, Ant­o­nio Rodrig­uez is shown. Po­lice an­nounced at a news con­fer­ence, Monday, Jan. 17, 2011, that Rodrig­uez was a per­son of in­terest in a string of re­cent stran­gu­la­tion deaths and chok­ing sexu­al as­saults in the Kens­ing­ton neigh­bor­hood of Phil­adelphia. (AP Photo)

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 jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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