Rita Hreha was a generous woman, but not generous enough for her drug-addicted great-nephew and his girlfriend, according to Yeadon Borough police.
The 85-year-old Delaware County resident had opened her doors to David Galdo - even though he allegedly stole from her last year - and Krystal Mariani, giving them money and shelter when no one else would.
The couple repaid Hreha on Monday by beating her to death in her kitchen, then cashing her checks to get high, police said.
"She agreed to take them in, provide some living space, provide some financial support for them - and it came to this," said Yeadon Police Chief Donald Molineux. He said Hreha had suffered a "brutal beating."
Galdo, 26, who recently had been released from jail, and Mariani, 22, were charged yesterday with murdering Hreha, a retired businesswoman known for a take-charge attitude and selflessness.
"She was an angel," said Al Berman, co-owner of Berm Studios, a Yeadon company that makes trade-show exhibits, and where Hreha had worked for 20 years.
Hreha becomes the latest victim in a disturbing trend - the 10th Delaware County resident allegedly murdered by a relative in the last 15 months.
Police say Galdo and Mariani turned on Hreha when she refused to give them more money. Another relative found her body Wednesday on the kitchen floor with a pillow over her bloody face.
The couple were apprehended later that day at the corner of 84th Street and Lindbergh Boulevard, in the Eastwick section of Southwest Philadelphia. Both Galdo - who sported ragged facial hair and a goatee - and the petite Mariani declined to comment yesterday before entering court for their arraignments.
"I hope you rot in jail," Mariani's aunt, Kristen Higgins, told Galdo as he was led from the room.
Yeadon Detective Sgt. David Splain said that Hreha apparently had been beaten with a glass figurine, but that it was unclear who had done it. "They basically point the finger at each other," he said of Galdo and Mariani, who have a 2-year-old son.
They were taken yesterday to the George W. Hill Correctional Facility, where they join at least four other Delaware County residents who have been accused or convicted of killing a relative.
In fact, in the last 15 months in the county, at least nine other cases of family violence have resulted in death:
* Christine Conaway, 22, of Upland Borough, was sentenced in September to five to 10 years in state prison for the Dec. 31, 2006, blunt-force-injury death of her 4-month-old daughter, Kayla.
* Mia Sardella, 19, of Drexel Hill, granddaughter of prominent Philadelphia investment banker Albert E. Piscopo, is awaiting trial for the death of her infant son, found in the trunk of her car 21 days after his birth Jan. 1, 2007.
* Stanley Coleman, 46, shot his estranged wife, Christine Coleman, in the parking lot of her workplace in Lower Chichester on June 19, then turned his .357 Magnum on himself, leaving the couple's two sons, Isaiah and Michael, orphaned.
* In January, Robert Killian, 84, of Drexel Hill, shot his blind daughter, Barbara, 53, and their dog, A-Rod, in the basement of the family home. He then turned the gun on himself. Police believe the ailing man had feared that no one would take care of his daughter after he died.
* Paul Wanyoike, 35, of Ridley Township, is serving a 10-to-20-year state-prison sentence after striking his wife, Yetunde, 32 times in the head with a claw hammer in January 2007. He killed her in front of the couple's 4-year-old daughter.
* After 59 years of marriage, William Ernest, 82, of Brookhaven, last summer beat his wife, Jean, 80, into a coma from which she never awoke, according to police. Ernest pleaded guilty last month to involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault.
* The fatal stabbing of Antwan Ricks, 16, allegedly by his 13-year-old brother, Jahmir, at their Lansdowne home in July ostensibly was about the rights to a video-game controller. But defense attorneys claim that the younger Ricks' alleged actions were precipitated by years of abuse he suffered at the hands of his brother. Hearings are ongoing to determine whether the case should remain in adult court.
* Maurice Milbourne, 23, has been charged in the July murder of his grandmother, Gladys Milbourne, 79. She was found dead in her Chester apartment, her throat cut open with a kitchen knife.