John Thomas told police he was inspired by the Old Testament when he slipped a rock inside one of Murray Seidman's socks and used it to bludgeon the 70-year-old to death.
Unfortunately for Thomas, who was charged yesterday with first-degree murder, the Pennsylvania crimes code hews more closely to the Ten Commandments than the Book of Leviticus, which advocates the killing of homosexuals.
"I stoned Murray with a rock in a sock," Thomas, 28, confessed Wednesday, more than two months after Seidman's body was found inside his Lansdowne apartment, where the floor, walls and furniture were splattered with dried blood, according to police.
Now, Thomas' alleged act of religious zealotry makes him a prime candidate for Old Testament, eye-for-an-eye justice. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
Police say Thomas, a close friend of Seidman's, killed the developmentally challenged man in January, claiming that Seidman had made "homosexual advances" toward him.
Thomas said he had read in the Bible that gays should be stoned to death "in certain situations" and that the "answer" he "received from his prayers was to put an end to the victim's life," according to the criminal complaint. He struck Seidman in the head about 10 times, then after the final blow, he "made sure the victim was dead," the report states.
"He is a deeply religious man. Or so he says," Lansdowne Police Chief Dan Kortan said of Thomas, who lives on Sunshine Road in Upper Darby.
Seidman, a former Elwyn Institute resident who worked in the linen department at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital for 40 years, was found face-down inside the Ath-Dara Apartments on Jan. 12, when Thomas began banging on doors and screaming that Seidman was dead.
"John almost knocked my door down, saying that Murray was dead," said Delores Kelly, who lives down the hall.
Kelly said that the two men were "very good friends" and that Seidman was going to be Thomas' godfather after Thomas was recently baptized.
"He was a great guy, a friend to everybody," Kelly said of Seidman. "Never hurt anybody."
Delaware County Medical Examiner Fredric Hellman determined that Seidman had been dead for five to 10 days by the time that Thomas notified neighbors. Thomas told police that he disposed of his bloody clothing and the sock, then returned to the apartment days after the slaying to make it appear as if he had just discovered the body, according to the criminal complaint.
The motive for the killing remains murky, Chief Kortan said. Thomas claims he killed Seidman in response to his supposed sexual advances, which police cannot verify. But police also say that Thomas is the executor and sole beneficiary of Seidman's will.
Then, in late January, Thomas was arrested for indecent exposure when he was found "bathing naked" in a bathroom sink at the Upper Darby Wash & Lube carwash and "ran out naked," said Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood.
Kortan said it was unclear whether Thomas is mentally ill. A woman who answered the door at his house yesterday declined to comment.
"Only two people were there when it happened, so we don't know" what triggered the killing, Kortan said. "We'll never know the other side."
Seidman was "very popular" among co-workers at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital and had no prior contact with police.
"I haven't found anyone who had a problem with him," Kortan said. "As far as we are concerned, he was a model citizen."
"Everybody liked him," neighbor Sharon Angus-Smith said of Seidman, who spent much of his early life institutionalized. "It's a shame that someone he knew would kill him. It's horrible."