The word came down from police brass last night, confirming what everyone in Kensington seemed to know in the pits of their stomachs from the start.

The 27-year-old woman found dead in a lot at Front and Tusculum streets Wednesday had indeed been strangled and sexually assaulted, just like the other two women whose deaths have been laid at the feet of the Kensington Strangler.

The latest victim, an East Stroudsburg resident whose name was not released, was positioned face-down, like at least one of the other murder victims, said Deputy Commissioner William Blackburn.

It'll be about a week before investigators will know if DNA evidence can definitively link this madman to the killings of all three women.

"But we're treating it as if it's the same perpetrator," Blackburn said. "Homicide is treating this as though they're related."

Blackburn said investigators don't know how the latest victim ended up in the weed- and trash-strewn lot, which leads to a set of rail tracks below.

It was unclear how long she had been laid out in the lot at Front and Tusculum streets before a passer-by found her shortly after 5 p.m.

"She was found in a similar position to at least one of the victims," Blackburn said. "She was face-down in a similar fashion."

Detectives were trying to track down her family last night. "She may have been the mother of a small child," he said quietly.

Blackburn noted that she "fit the victimology" of the other slain women, Elaine Goldberg and Nicole Piacentini - white women who were last seen alive in sections of Kensington that are notorious for drugs and prostitution.

Goldberg, 21, was found partially clothed in a lot on Ruth Street near Hart Lane on Nov. 3. Piacentini was found also partially clothed 10 days later in a lot at Jasper and Cumberland streets.

At least three other women have told police they were sexually assaulted and choked in the same area by a man who has been described for two composite sketches as a medium-built black or Hispanic man in his 20s or 30s who wore a hoodie and might have identified himself as "Anthony."

Yesterday afternoon, the strangler was the only topic of discussion in Kensington, especially among young women, who seemed filled with panic and dread.

"I don't ever want to come out of my house. I don't even want to go to the store," said Melissa Aponte, 22, who lives on Tusculum Street near A, not far from where the latest victim was found.

Aponte said she stayed inside nearly all day yesterday with her 3-year-old daughter.

"I was going to go to the store," she said, "but I've been thinking twice."

Blackburn said he implored young, single women not to walk alone in Kensington.

"We have someone out there, at least one person, that's strangling young females," he said. "We're just asking the public to steer us in the right direction. Give us a name. Give us a location. We need to get this person off the streets."