Police on Wednesday released surveillance video of the person suspected of killing a well-known animal rescuer inside his Northeast Philadelphia home this week.
The video, which appears to have been obtained from inside Albert Chernoff’s home in the 8400 block of Algon Avenue in Rhawnhurst, shows the suspect casually walking through the living room and later entering the kitchen to wash hands, and then looking inside the refrigerator and freezer before leaving the house.
The suspect was described as black person with medium-brown in complexion, tall with a thin build, having short hair, wearing a black jacket, a long-sleeve pink top, loose-fitting red sweatpants, and white athletic shoes, and carrying a black backpack.
Police had originally said witnesses reported seeing a female leaving the house shortly before officers arrived and found the victim’s body.
Police said that Chernoff, 59, was killed with a blunt weapon around 10:30 p.m. Monday.
Shortly before 3 a.m. Tuesday, police responded to a report from a neighbor and found Chernoff partially tied to a bed with a massive head wound and several slashing injuries on his chest. Medics pronounced him dead at the scene.
Police said the suspect should be considered armed and dangerous. Tipsters may call homicide detectives at 215-686-3334 or -3335 or 215-686-TIPS, or send a text message to PPD TIP or 773847. The Citizens’ Crime Commission offers a $20,000 reward for information leading to arrest and conviction of homicide suspects.
Chernoff went by the nickname of “Alley Cat,” which he also used as the name of his one-man cat-rescue operation. And he was known as “Alley Cat” on the NATGeoTV reality show Rescue Ink about tattooed bikers with, as it was explained, “zero tolerance when it comes to animal abuse.”
Chernoff, who graduated from Northeast High School in 1977 and served in the Army, worked for the city as a building maintenance supervisor at Philadelphia International Airport. He was an experienced rock and ice climber, according to a biography posted online for Rescue Ink.
At his home were 11 cats, three turtles, and two frogs that were rescued by local animal-welfare workers.
Two cats were taken by individual rescuers, including a veterinary technician who took a kitten that Chernoff named after her, said Blake Martin, spokesperson for the Animal Care and Control Team of Philadelphia (ACCT Philly), the nonprofit that manages the city’s animal shelter. The remaining animals were being housed by the Pennsylvania SPCA, which called Chernoff’s death “heartbreaking.”
On Facebook, ACCT Philly wrote: “The animal rescue community and especially the cat community has lost an amazing man. He was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met and he would do anything for anyone. You are already missed and there is a hole in the heart of every cat rescuer that will never be filled. Rest in Peace Al Chernoff. May you be surrounded by your feline friends at the rainbow bridge and may you find peace.”
“This is just devastating,” said Northeast Animal Rescue founder Jayme Rosenthal, who frequently worked with Chernoff.
A GoFundMe page was set up by David Levin, a family member, to help pay for Chernoff’s funeral. Chernoff was divorced and had no children, Levin said.
Chernoff had a brief appearance in a recent documentary film called The Cat Rescuers. The filmmakers posted their condolences on Facebook:
“We wanted to share with you the very short scene of our film in which he appears. In every single screening, without fail, audiences have positively delighted when he graced the screen. We could feel the energy change in the room to one of lightness and wonder, and for that, as well as his unwavering commitment to saving cats, we thank him.”
They added, “We lost a gracious soul.”