Philadelphia police suspect serial killer after strangling

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Philadelphia police on Friday released the name of a woman found strangled in the Kensington section of the city, whose case may be linked to two recent murders in the same neighborhood.

The body of Casey Mahoney, 27, of East Stroudsberg, Pennsylvania, was found dead near railroad tracks in Kensington on December 15, police said.

Mahoney’s body was found naked from the waist down, and there were signs of sexual assault.

Police said Mahoney may have been killed by the same person -- dubbed the Kensington Strangler by local media -- who has killed two other women in the same neighborhood since early November.

Kensington, on the northeast side of central Philadelphia, is one of the city’s roughest neighborhoods, and is notorious for its drug dealing and prostitution.

Elaine Goldberg, a 21-year-old nursing student, was found dead on November 3, while the body of Nicole Piacentini was found on November 13. Both women, whose bodies were found in vacant lots, had been raped and strangled.

The attacks on Goldberg and Piacentini have been definitively linked by DNA testing, said Lt. Ray Evers of the Philadelphia Police Department.

The latest attack may also be linked to recent non-fatal assaults on three other women in the neighborhood. They reported being attacked by a man of a similar description, who they fought off before informing police.

“The Task Force is looking at all six incidents as possibly being perpetrated by the same person,” Evers said.

If DNA tests confirm that Mahoney’s death is linked to the first two killings, the attacks will be officially classified as the work of a serial killer, defined as killing at least three victims, Evers said.

In the case of Mahoney, “everything looks very similar” to the previous two killings, Evers said.

The man who attacked the three women who escaped is described as black, in his 20s, between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 10 inches tall, of slender build, with close-cut hair and wearing a hooded sweat shirt.

Reporting by Jon Hurdle, Editing by Greg McCune