Now, police believe that DNA evidence that was run through their offender database has led them to their primary suspect, 21-year-old Antonio Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was taken into custody on a unrelated bench warrant near the area of the murders after a caller phoned in a tip, reports KYW-TV. The announcement Monday night came shortly after a news conference in which Philadelphia Police Capt. James Clark said Rodriguez was being sought as a "person of interest" in the case.
Rodriguez had not been charged with any crime in the stranglings case, and police had not even obtained an arrest warrant for him, Clark said. But the link made by state police in their offender database was "a major break in the case," he said.
Rodriguez recently had been released from prison, Clark said, but he declined to say for what he had been incarcerated or detail his criminal history. He said state police had contacted Philadelphia police about the match in their offender database.
"Right now, the information we're getting is he's homeless, he's wandering in the area, he's frequenting abandoned houses ... so right now we do not believe anyone is helping him out," Clark said.
Two young women, 35-year-old Nicole Piacentini and 21-year-old Elaine Goldberg, were sexually assaulted and strangled in November. Another, 27-year-old Casey Mahoney, was found murdered in December.
Other women came forward, claiming to have barely survived sexual assaults and strangulation attempts. In all, Rodriguez is believed to have sexually assaulted three other women who survived.
Rodriguez has not yet been charged in the case.
The attacks took place in a stretch of Kensington known for open prostitution and drugs, although an influx of artists and young homebuyers have made parts of the neighborhood, a few miles North of downtown, a bit trendier in recent years.