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Date last updated: Wednesday, January 11, 9:03 PST


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Firefighters respond to Philly gas leak, find homicide scene instead

By Allison Steele
The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA — Firefighters thought they were responding to a routine gas leak in a South Philadelphia apartment Tuesday morning. Instead, they discovered a gruesome crime scene behind the door.

The bodies of a man and a woman, stabbed repeatedly, lay in different blood-spattered rooms, wrapped in blankets. The man's throat was slashed, and the woman was covered with so much blood that police first thought she was a man. Nearby the corpses of two small dogs were found, also stabbed.

Their assailant had turned on the gas in the apartment before leaving, possibly in an attempt to start a fire, but another building resident smelled gas and called 911.

The victims, whose names have not been released pending notification of their families, were a 79-year-old white man and a black woman in her 40s, said Philadelphia Capt. James Clark. They were found shortly before 10 a.m. in a first-floor apartment on the corner of 13th and Dickinson Streets.

Police noticed drug paraphernalia in the apartment, but said they do not yet know a motive for the slayings. The viciousness of the crime, however, led police to believe the victims knew their attackers.

"It seems personal," Clark said.

The man lived in the apartment and police believe the woman was staying there, but their relationship is unclear, Clark said. "This was obviously a very violent attack," he said. "We're asking anyone who knows anything to please get in touch with us."

Police were on the scene for most of Tuesday, cordoning off part of the block as they searched for evidence. Neighbors of the three-story building gathered across the street to watch the police activity. Most said they barely knew any of the building's residents.

"It's a surprise for this neighborhood," said one 58-year-old man who declined to give his name. "This is a quiet area, tight-knit. Family oriented."

Still, neighbors said, there had been signs in recent months that drug activity was moving in, including fighting on street corners. There also were signs of trouble from the building.

"People go in and out all the time, you see women around," said Roseanne Dappollone, 55. "Everyone kind of knew people were buying drugs there."

Dappollone has lived in the area for 25 years. Last year, she said, for the first time, someone broke into her house.

"It's still unbelievable that it happened here," she said of the killings.

Neighbor Diana Gural, 38, who lives a half-block away on Dickinson, said she was not surprised that something violent took place in the building.

"There's always suspicious behavior around there," she said. "You see people who look like they're high, you see people hanging around. You just knew to keep an eye on it."

Anyone with information can call the homicide unit at 215-686-3334.

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