Cop: Man killed wife over missing money

Louis Hartde­gen

A quar­rel over miss­ing money led a 75-year-old Castor Gar­dens man to strangle his wife on May 6, ac­cord­ing to a hom­icide de­tect­ive’s Mu­ni­cip­al Court testi­mony on Tues­day.

Dur­ing a pre­lim­in­ary hear­ing for de­fend­ant Louis C. Hartde­gen, Det. James Burns told the court that Hartde­gen ad­mit­ted he had ac­cused his wife, Ju­dith, of steal­ing rents he had col­lec­ted for their land­lord and had hit his wife in the mouth when she denied it on May 5. Burns did not say how much money that Hartde­gen sus­pec­ted his wife of tak­ing.

Burns fur­ther test­i­fied that Hartde­gen ad­mit­ted to de­tect­ives that he again asked his wife about the miss­ing rents early on May 6. Ju­dith Hartde­gen again denied know­ing any­thing about the money. The deni­al sparked the fatal at­tack, the de­tect­ive said, quot­ing from Hartde­gen’s prin­ted and signed state­ment to po­lice.

“I hit her in the mouth again. She freaked out,” Hartde­gen told the in­ter­rog­at­ors, ac­cord­ing to Burns.

Hartde­gen made the state­ment on May 6 when po­lice in­ter­viewed him at a room at Aria Health-Tor­res­dale, where the de­fend­ant was be­ing treated for minor in­jur­ies he suffered in the af­ter­math of the slay­ing.

In de­tail­ing the killing for hom­icide in­vest­ig­at­ors, Hartde­gen said his 74-year-old wife was on the bed in their second-floor apart­ment on the 6700 block of Castor Ave., when he put a pil­low over her face and his hand over her mouth. The eld­erly man later told the in­ter­rog­at­ors that he choked his wife with his bare hands, the de­tect­ive said.

Hartde­gen, who ap­peared in court Tues­day in a wheel­chair, called 911 to re­port the killing, but he ini­tially blamed it on someone else. Hartde­gen claimed a neigh­bor broke in­to the couple’s apart­ment, raped and beat his wife and at­tacked him be­fore flee­ing, Burns said.

Po­lice took the neigh­bor in­to cus­tody, but had their doubts about the eld­erly man’s story. The neigh­bor, 26, pro­claimed his in­no­cence while he was ques­tioned for sev­er­al hours be­fore be­ing re­leased.

Hartde­gen ul­ti­mately told po­lice, “I don’t know why I blamed him,” ac­cord­ing to his signed state­ment to de­tect­ives. Burns test­i­fied that Hartde­gen said his neigh­bor had giv­en him a hard time pre­vi­ously.

One day after the killing, Capt. James Clark of the hom­icide unit an­nounced pub­licly that Hartde­gen’s tale didn’t add up. Au­thor­it­ies then charged Hartde­gen with killing his wife of more than 50 years.

Clark said at the time that Hartde­gen tried to make it look like the apart­ment had been broken in­to. Also Hartde­gen bore marks con­sist­ent with be­ing at­tacked, in­clud­ing scrapes and bruises on his body. But in the end, Hartde­gen told in­vest­ig­at­ors he had in­jured him­self by fall­ing down stairs when po­lice ar­rived at his apart­ment in re­sponse to the 911 call, the de­tect­ive said.

Hartde­gen also ad­mit­ted to de­tect­ives that he tried to make the as­sault on his wife look like she had been raped, al­though she had not been raped, ac­cord­ing to po­lice. In court Tues­day, As­sist­ant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Joanne Pes­catore read a med­ic­al ex­am­iner’s re­port that the wo­man was strangled and that her death was a hom­icide.

Mu­ni­cip­al Court Judge Teresa Carr Deni held Hartde­gen for tri­al on a gen­er­al murder count and re­lated charges. He re­mains in Phil­adelphia pris­on cus­tody without bail. ••

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