As she looked at the police lineup, Hoa Pham's wife couldn't be sure that Jermaine Burgess was the man who sexually assaulted her and killed her husband.
"But she said she was afraid when she looked at him," Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said.
On Friday, Burgess was arrested after DNA testing linked him to the brutal Nov. 10 home invasion on Copley Road near Sansom Street, police said.
Under questioning this weekend, Burgess, 37, admitted to Pham's slaying and to another, equally sadistic killing - that of Ridley Township resident Marie Ott, 81, who was stabbed, strangled and suffocated in her home on Oct. 26, Chitwood said.
Police were led to Burgess, who lived with his sister on Springton Road near Shirley, because of his violent past and because he lived a half-mile from Pham's home.
According to Chitwood, Burgess has spent about a third of his life in prison for various offenses, including aggravated assault and armed robbery. When he was arrested Friday, Burgess was on parole after being sentenced to three to six years for a 2004 conviction for weapons offenses, according to court records.
When police went to arrest him Friday night, they discovered that he was incarcerated in Philadelphia for an alleged armed carjacking on Dec. 17. He was transported to Upper Darby police headquarters for questioning and returned to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, in the Northeast, where he remains without bail.
The tools Burgess allegedly used to beat and terrorize Pham and his 58-year-old wife for more than an hour - including a chisel, electrical cords and a sandwich bag he used as a makeshift condom - linked him to the crime, Chitwood said.
Forensic evidence from all three objects matched samples Burgess had given following prior court convictions, according to police.
Pham had been a decorated second lieutenant in the South Vietnamese Army and survived seven years as a prisoner of war of North Vietnam after the fall of Saigon.
County and Ridley Township investigators joined Upper Darby police during interviews with Burgess to question him about Ott's slaying.
Ott, who lived in her home on Crum Creek Drive near Harfman for 20 years, was stabbed five times, strangled with a rope or cord, and died with a plastic bag over her head.
At the time of the slaying, Burgess was staying with his aunt, who lived near the wheelchair-bound Ott, Chitwood said.
In both cases, a nominal amount of cash was taken.
Chitwood expressed doubts that Burgess was responsible for another Upper Darby slaying, that of Jane Morgan, 84, who was found asphyxiated in her bed Sept. 9 at the Long Lane Apartments in Upper Darby.
He said Morgan's death didn't rise to the "brutality and violence" of the others.
Burgess, who police say has a girlfriend, boasted of his criminal activities on both arms. Tattooed on one forearm is a picture of an assault rifle and the words "It's my way or gun play," and tattooed on the other, the words "lawless hoodlum." *