PHILADELPHIA-BASED model Ray Armstrong was high above New York City's Times Square this summer on a pommel horse, the chiseled subject of a Target Olympic billboard campaign.

But by Sept. 27, he was wet and naked, lying face-down and praying in the middle of a Grays Ferry street, waiting to be arrested for murder.

It was the street in front of Anthony Williams' house, a man who, for as long as anyone can remember, opened his door to homeless children and adults.

And Armstrong, 31, a friend whom Williams called his "little brother," was one of them.

But when Williams, 37, opened his door for Armstrong on Sept. 27, it would be his final act of kindness.

"When Anthony opened the door for Ray that night, he opened the door to his death," said Williams' friend, Olga Crespo.

Williams and Crespo worked together at Central City Toyota in West Philadelphia, a job that Williams, a Bartram High School graduate, began at age 18.

"He was perfect with everybody - like a glove, he'd fit on anybody's hand," Crespo said. "And he just insisted on you smiling."

About a year ago, service manager Jamie Haberle promoted Williams to service adviser.

"He always strove to become a service adviser because he knew so many clients and he wanted to experience a different level with them on a peer-to-peer basis," Haberle said.

Williams often worked six-day weeks and up to 11 hours a day, but he never complained, Haberle said.

Ashley Nichols, a Central City customer-service representative, said: "He was one of the first people to embrace me, to ask me where I was from and to make me comfortable. Anthony wanted everyone to like him. It even bothered him when the guy at the corner store wasn't nice to him."

Williams' talents ranged from interior design to singing in his church choir, but his friends say it was through his love of photography that Williams met Armstrong, a model whose credits include Kenneth Cole print ads and iPod TV commercials.

But, according to Williams' neighbors and friends, Armstrong marketed himself in other ways as well.

"Ray always had 20 different professions," Nichols said. "His card said model, actor, dancer, stripper, photographer."

Armstrong seemed to switch up girls as often as he did careers, and whenever he was between women, he'd stay at Williams' house, friends said.

"Anthony gave Ray extra cell phones, clothes, whatever he needed, and he let him stay with him," Nichols said.

Williams' next-door neighbor, Tonja Bell, estimated that Armstrong had been living on and off at Williams' home for four years.

"Anthony always opened his house to people," she said. "He was not going to see you homeless."

But Williams recently began remodeling his house and found himself without the room or patience to help an often "troubled" Armstrong, Bell said.

"Ray always had big plans but they was never working," she said. "He didn't have no job, no insurance and he never paid to live there."

When Armstrong broke up with his latest girlfriend and called Williams looking to move back in, Williams, for the first time, said no, according to Bell and Nichols.

But on Sept. 27, Armstrong showed up at Williams' house on Wilder Street near 26th and let himself in, possibly with a key he still had, Bell said.

Shortly thereafter, Armstrong came out of the house talking on his cell phone and jumped into his Ford Expedition, where he began to smoke what many neighbors believe by the smell was a "wet" blunt, or a marijuana cigar soaked in embalming fluid.

Then, he began to bust out his windshield with his bare fists, Homicide Det. Levi Morton said.

Concerned neighbors alerted Williams that his friend was "tripping" outside and told him to take him inside for a cold shower, Bell said.

Williams brought him inside, but 10 minutes later, Armstrong emerged from Williams' house - soaking-wet and naked - and lay face down in the street, praying.

"A neighbor went to go towards Anthony's open door and Ray said, 'Don't go in that house, I just killed Anthony,' " Bell said.

Neighbors had to stop police cruisers from flying down the street so they wouldn't hit Armstrong, Morton said.

"He claimed he could barely walk, his talk was incoherent and he didn't know who he was," Morton said.

According to police, no weapon was found in the house.

"Not only was the victim beat to death, he was also strangled," Morton said.

Williams' co-workers didn't find out until the following Monday, Crespo said.

"It's not fair. That was his so-called friend," she said. "He gave the shirt off his back to him; he helped him when no one else did. And the way he died, I can't picture the struggle he must have gone through because we know he wasn't violent at all."

For Bell, a painful reminder of her neighbor's death remains parked in front of her house - the busted up Expedition.

Someone has written "killer" on the glovebox and a neighbor took the half-smoked blunt that may have sent Armstrong over the edge out of the car before kids got to it, Bell said.

Greer Lang, a talent director at Expressions Model and Talent Agency, in Philadelphia, who represented Armstrong, was shocked by his arrest.

"He's always been completely professional and a very gentle-type person," she said. "Never, ever did we think that he was on any drugs."

On Armstrong's online portfolio, he links to his video application for a TV show, during which he interviews Williams, whom he lists as a "long-time friend."

"I've known him for a long time and he's going to be there for a long time for me," Williams says in the video of Armstrong. "I'll be right behind him, supporting him 100 percent."

Williams' father, Alvin, said his son, "who mostly carried a good smile on his face" was often warned about being benevolent.

"Everybody thought that the way violence was in the streets today, especially in Philadelphia, that it wasn't a good thing for him to be so kind and so willing to help other people," he said. "But that was his personality, and I hope his life, and the passing of it, will help to generate more kindness and love for one's fellow man."

His friends and co-workers believe it will.

"If you made other people around you better, that's a pretty good epitaph," Haberle said. Armstrong is in prison, awaiting his preliminary hearing. *