A 47-year-old Philadelphia man has been charged with burglary and abuse of corpse in the case of a dismembered body that was found inside a U-Haul truck in the city’s Far Northeast section Thursday.
Taray Herring was arraigned Saturday morning on those charges as well as criminal trespass, theft, and tampering with evidence. He was ordered held without bail.
A spokesperson for the Defender Association of Philadelphia, which is representing Herring, said the office had no comment on the case.
Cpl. Jasmine Reilly, a police spokesperson, said Saturday that the Medical Examiner’s Office is still in the process of identifying the victim and that homicide detectives are continuing to investigate the death. The body parts recovered were consistent with an adult male, she said.
The victim’s torso was found about 9 a.m. Thursday after police officers responded to a call of an in-progress burglary on the 1000 block of Sanibel Street in Somerton, police said. Police followed a U-Haul that drove away from the property and after pulling the driver over a short distance away at the intersection of Kelvin Avenue and Foster Street, found the dismembered body inside a trash bag in the back of the truck.
Property records show that the owner of the house on Sanibel where the burglary was reported is Peter Gerold, whose 70th birthday was Monday. Gerold owned a massage therapy practice.
Reilly said that on Wednesday, someone from a different state had called police asking for them to conduct a well-being check on Gerold, whom the person had not heard from for “some time.” Police went to his home on that day, and the house appeared to be properly secured and there wasn’t mail piled up, she said. There was nothing suspicious at the time, she said, and police did not enter the home.
”We don’t just kick people’s doors in,” she said. “There must be a reason why we go in there.”
On Thursday, when the U-Haul truck was pulled over, the driver got out of the vehicle and told officers: “‘I don’t want anything to do with this, and there’s a body in the back,’” Police Sgt. Eric Gripp previously told reporters.
Police previously said a weapon was also found in the back of the truck but have not said what it was.
The driver and another man in the truck were taken into custody. Herring was the passenger, Reilly said. She did not name the driver, and said he was not charged and was released. She said police were “still trying to get to the bottom” of what happened.
On Thursday night, after Herring talked to homicide investigators, police went out to search in dumpsters behind a nearby strip mall at Proctor Road and Kelvin Avenue, near the Sanibel house, and found black trash bags with a person’s hands and feet — all of which were deep-fried, a law enforcement source said Saturday. A person’s cut-up legs, not deep-fried, were also found in trash bags, the source said.
Herring, a registered sex offender on the Pennsylvania State Police’s Megan’s Law website, had been arrested last May on charges of burglary, criminal trespass, theft, and related offenses, according to court records. His bail was changed to unsecured in June, and he was released. He still faces a preliminary hearing on those charges.
He pleaded guilty in 2019 to a charge of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and was sentenced to 18 months’ probation as part of a negotiated agreement, and was ordered to be supervised under the Adult Probation and Parole Department Mental Health Unit, court records indicate.
In 2015, he was convicted of indecent assault and harassment in a 2013 incident and was sentenced to nine to 18 months in jail on the assault charge, and was allowed to be immediately paroled. Although he was deemed not to be a sexually violent predator, he was ordered to register on the State Police’s Megan’s Law website as a sexual offender. He was also ordered to be supervised by the probation and parole department’s mental health unit and undergo sex-offender treatment, according to court records.
In 2012, Herring pleaded guilty to four counts each of harassment and simple assault regarding four separate incidents the prior year, and was sentenced to probation.
And in 2001, he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, indecent assault, and possession of instruments of crime for an incident the prior year and was sentenced to at least five to 10 years in prison.
On Friday, investigators returned to the dumpsters behind the strip mall and collected more evidence, police said.
Investigators also returned to the Sanibel house Friday and continued to search a detached garage there. Employees of the SPCA and ACCT Philly were on scene removing birds in cages and other animals from inside the residence.
Sarah Barnett, a spokesperson for ACCT, said there were about 30 parrots inside the house, along with several bearded dragon lizards, tortoises, and koi fish and beehives in the backyard. Barnett said it appeared as if the homeowner was trying to breed and sell the birds, which she said were “very highly sought-after” and can be worth thousands of dollars each.
Staff writer Chris Palmer and staff photographer Alejandro A. Alvarez contributed to this article.