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Phila. homicide hiatus gives way to 3 murders

In West Philadelphia, the body of a woman who had been stabbed to death lay facedown amid trash outside a vacant rowhouse.

In West Philadelphia, the body of a woman who had been stabbed to death lay facedown amid trash outside a vacant rowhouse.

In Crescentville, construction workers found a dead man with a gunshot blast to the head.

It was all part of a bloody breakfast hour for Philadelphia police yesterday, who hurried to investigate two bodies found within 20 minutes in separate incidents just after 7 a.m.

Detectives already were juggling one homicide and two other deaths from overnight. The five deaths came after a three-day homicide hiatus; yesterday's carnage boosted the city's murder tally for the year to 35.

"Philadelphia is ridiculous," said Darryl Paris, an onlooker at the West Philadelphia homicide scene.

In the first incident, construction workers doing flood-control work in Tacony Creek Park found the corpse of a man in his early 30s just after 7 a.m. off Rising Sun Avenue near Adams, police said.

Medics declared the man dead on the scene. He had a gunshot wound to his head, and a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun was nearby, leading investigators to suspect suicide. An autopsy is planned.

Twenty minutes later, police were called to Sickels Street near Market, where passers-by had spotted the body of a woman lying behind a chain-link fence encircling a vacant rowhouse in the shadow of the El.

The woman appeared to have been stabbed to death. Her body was left on the residential street beside the sidewalk in plain view on a block bookended by a child-care center and busy Market Street.

In Southwest Philadelphia, detectives had spent much of the night in a rowhouse on Phoebe Place near 72nd Street, where police found the decomposing bodies of a father and daughter they suspect may have been dead for weeks. Foul play is not suspected.

And in West Oak Lane, police were seeking suspects in the slaying of a man in his 20s who was found shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday, shot in the head in a driveway off Ogontz Avenue near Middleton Street. Police had no suspects or motive. They didn't release the victim's name.

At the Sickels Street murder scene, crime-scene workers and homicide detectives examined the body and directed uniformed officers to push onlookers farther away. As gawkers grumbled in complaint, one cranky police supervisor shouted at them: "What, you want a glossy photograph?"

As Paris watched detectives work, he lamented the city's violence as uncontrollable and recent city efforts to curb the murder rate as overdue.

"The city waited too long to get this under control," said Paris, 45, who lives four blocks from the murder scene. "This is out of the [police] commissioner's hands. The only person who's going to make a difference now is God." *