JOE NICOLETTI was amazed at the anger spewing from David Toledo as the two sat in Toledo's living room in January, talking about the lowlife who got his rocks off by slashing their neighbors' tires.
"Some of the things he said were almost a vigilante-type thing," Nicoletti said.
Toledo vowed to join the search to find the punk, said Nicoletti, president of Tacony/Holmesburg Town Watch.
Toledo, however, wound up blowing it off.
Now Nicoletti knows why.
He was face to face with the man cops would eventually say terrorized the neighborhood for months, slashing tires on at least 55 cars since November - including all four tires of his own Jeep Cherokee and his wife's Chevy Beretta.
"This is just strange," Nicoletti said Wednesday night. "He was hiding in plain sight."
Toledo, 44, was arrested Wednesday at his well-kept rowhouse on Aldine Street near Frankford Avenue, where colorful butterfly wind chimes dangled from the porch and an American flag blew in the breeze.
That tree-lined block was one of the hardest hit, and Toledo was one of the biggest complainers about the slashing spree.
He moaned to the Daily News last month that he didn't know where to park because the street he lived on wasn't safe.
He told 6ABC that he'd been victimized 11 times.
A butcher by trade, he told the Inquirer: "I feel like butchering the one who is doing this."
Authorities declined to say how they zeroed in on Toledo, who was arrested in 2005 for criminal mischief but never charged, but they said he had been a suspect for a while.
"This has been a very long time coming together, a long investigation," said Capt. Jack McGinnis, commanding officer of the Northeast Detective Division. "We were finally able to put together a case against David Toledo."
He faces charges including two felony counts and 47 misdemeanor counts of criminal mischief, seven counts of possession of an instrument of crime and five counts of false reports, McGinnis said.
Despite shirking the Town Watch group, Toledo did band together with his neighbors to police the block to prevent more wallet-draining attacks. Neighbors said Toledo often sat on his porch keeping an eye on the street at night when the vandalism was at its height, and often he commiserated with other victims.
Some neighbors were stunned at the news of his arrest. Others felt betrayed. But many were suspicious all along.
"I'm very disturbed by the level of betrayal that has been displayed here," said Milt Martelack, president of Mayfair Town Watch. "Early on, he did show a lot of interest in becoming a Town Watch member, but we believe now that was just to find out our hours of operation and infiltrate our group."
Toledo's next-door neighbor Karen Woldsmit said she had to replace eight tires from seven attacks on her SUV since November.
Despite a rocky start when Toledo and his wife first moved in, Woldsmit said, she grew close to the couple. She stood on her porch shaking her head Wednesday afternoon, dismayed at the news and trying to figure out what motivated the acts.
"He's pathological," said the woman, who works as a therapist, her face falling into a scowl.
"He traded in one vehicle because he said tires are too expensive," Woldsmit scoffed.
Martelack said it was how Toledo basked in the media spotlight, complaining about being a victim himself, coupled with the timing of the vandalism, that started to raise red flags for members of his group. One incident, he said, happened during a Town Watch-certification class.
Capt. Frank Bachmayer, of the 15th District, which encompasses the neighborhoods hit hardest, said he understands that neighbors are upset, but warned them not to lash out against Toledo's family.
Authorities said they plan to push for restitution to victims and the city. "It is as shocking as it is disheartening," Bachmayer said. "Let the justice system take care of Mr. Toledo."
To one woman from the block, who spoke on condition of anonymity but said her car was vandalized three times, justice would be quick and painful.
"I wouldn't say nothing," she said. "I'd break his god---- hands."