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Case backlog delayed arrest in Pa. slayings

Antonio Rodriguez, 22, has no history of violent crime. Antonio Rodriguez, 22, has no history of violent crime.
Associated Press / January 19, 2011

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PHILADELPHIA — A drifter arrested in the strangling of three young women in a gritty city neighborhood was identified by DNA tests that were delayed by a case backlog, but he has no history of violent crime, authorities said yesterday.

Antonio Rodriguez, 22, the transient being held in the slayings, does have a criminal record: He was jailed on drug charges June 5 and released on bail Aug. 19, said Bob Eskind, a spokesman for the Philadelphia prison system. Rodriguez pleaded guilty Oct. 21 in that case but was immediately paroled and given one year of probation.

“This was just a judgment that was made in court,’’ Eskind said, adding that Rodriguez did not have a history of violent crime.

Rodriguez was arrested Monday in the sexual assaults and strangling deaths of three women in the city’s Kensington section late last year. He has not been charged. Lieutenant Ray Evers, a Philadelphia police spokesman, said he expected charges would be filed soon.

The victims, Elaine Goldberg, Nicole Piacentini, and Casey Mahoney, were all in their 20s and had struggled with drug addiction. Their bodies were found between early November and mid-December in vacant lots within a 10-block radius.

The DNA match was delayed by a case backlog and by computer upgrades at the DNA testing database, according to Major Kenneth F. Hill, director of the State Police Bureau of Forensic Services.

State Police had gotten a DNA sample Oct. 25 from Rodriguez as part of standard routine for all felons. That sample was added to the backlog of about 5,000 cases, Hill wrote in a letter to Philadelphia police dated Monday.

They began processing Rodriguez’s sample Dec. 21, and testing was further delayed from Dec. 27 through Jan. 3 because of server upgrades, Hill wrote.

About a month earlier, on Nov. 22, Philadelphia police had given State Police crime-scene DNA from the stranglings. That was 19 days after the first victim’s body was found. The DNA match was announced Monday.

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