Did the gruesome stabbings and rapes start in April, or earlier? Is he getting more comfortable, the butcher who preys on prostitutes in Kensington, bold enough to strike twice in the same day?
These are among the questions gnawing at detectives who are trying to track down a madman before he strikes again.
Police on Thursday re-released surveillance footage of a man who allegedly sexually assaulted a female prostitute on Jasper Street near Buckius on July 12th — after he beat and choked her unconscious — in an attempt to hopefully garner enough information to identify him.
On July 17th, a 35-year-old woman named Rickie Morgan was pummeled with a brick and hacked to death with a knife on Cumberland Street near Jasper. Police found her naked and lifeless about a block away from where the brutal attack unfolded. That same day, a young woman who was pushing her belongings in a baby stroller fell victim to a man who sexually assaulted her and threatened her with a knife on Cumberland near Water Street, said Special Victims Unit Capt. Mark Burgmann.
There was a fourth attack, too, Burgmann said. Another woman was attacked on Frankford Avenue near Cambria Street on April 12th. Attacked is probably an understatement; her vocal cords were slashed with a straight-edge razor. The woman survived by playing dead. “Our complainant said he stood over her and watched. I think he thought she was bleeding out,” Burgmann said.
Are the three attacks and the murder all the work of the same man? Investigators don’t yet know for sure, but Burgmann said they certainly see similarities in the “vicious” nature of crimes, all of which have occurred in the same general area. And the description of the assailant in each case has been similar, too: a bearded, medium-built black man, 5-foot-7 to 5-foot-9, who wears a black and grey backpack, and uses a black and blue 10-speed bicycle.
“He’s very dangerous, I can tell you that,” Burgmann said. “He’s very willing to use that knife.” The surveillance footage offers a decent enough look at the man, who wore a dark basketball cap with a distinctive, V-shaped logo on the front. Burgmann hopes it’s enough to convince a tipster to pick up the phone and contact SVU at 215-685-3264, even if it’s just to leave an anonymous tip.
All of the victims have been prostitutes, which makes the case seem like an echo of the infamous Kensington Strangler, Antonio Rodriguez. But prostitutes are routinely the victims of brutal violence that plays out in the shadows, and sometimes goes unreported.
“Nobody deserves this to happen to them at all,” Burgmann said.
Follow @dgambacorta on Twitter.