Police hunt suspect in 3 stranglings

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Police linked a third homicide to a serial strangler Tuesday, hours after offering a $30,000 reward for information and pleading with the public not to become vigilantes in a case that has put a rough-and-tumble neighborhood on edge.

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Christine Piacentini visits a makeshift memorial Tuesday for her daughter, homicide victim Nicole Piacentini, in Philadelphia. Police are pleading with residents not to become vigilantes as the search continues for a man accused in three stranglings.

DNA found on the body of 27-year-old Casey Mahoney matches genetic evidence in the slayings of two other women found beaten, raped and strangled in the city’s Kensington section, Philadelphia police Capt. James Clark said at an evening news conference.

All three bodies were found in vacant lots within a 10-block radius over the past several weeks. Three other women have reported surviving sexual assaults in the area, two of whom said they were choked into unconsciousness.

Earlier in the day, Mayor Michael Nutter joined police brass in a public cry for help in the case. Speaking just steps from where the killer’s second victim was found, he offered a reward and pleaded with residents who might be keeping quiet out of fear or loyalty.

“We strongly believe that someone — possibly in the neighborhood — someone, somewhere in the city of Philadelphia knows who this person is, or knows about them,” Nutter said. “We are serious about getting this psycho off the streets.”

On Tuesday, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey warned against vigilante action.

“If you see someone suspicious, call 911,” he said. We will get there. We will handle it.”

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