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Husband to be charged in puzzling Northeast Philly murder

Police investigate the site of a May 6, 2013 home invasion on Castor Ave. in Northeast Philly that left a 74-year-old woman dead and a man hospitalized. (Emily Babay/ Staff)
Police investigate the site of a May 6, 2013 home invasion on Castor Ave. in Northeast Philly that left a 74-year-old woman dead and a man hospitalized. (Emily Babay/ Staff)Read more

In what police first believed to be a brutal home invasion that left an elderly woman murdered and her husband badly hurt, police said Monday night that the husband will be charged with his wife's murder.

No motive in the puzzling Northeast Philadelphia attack was immediately available, a police spokeswoman said. News reports identified the couple as Lou and Judith Hartdegen.

The incident that left the 74-year-old woman dead occurred about 2:20 a.m. Monday on the 6700 block of Castor Avenue, in the Castor neighborhood. The Hartdegens lived in an apartment above a storefront. The husband was 75.

The two were described by one neighbor as "beautiful people" who were well-liked in the area.

Police first said they believed an attacker broke in through a rear window of the second store apartment and assaulted the pair. The wife was pronounced dead at the scene at 2:53 a.m.  The man was taken to Aria Health's Torresdale campus where he was treated for head and neck injuries.

Details of the attack remain unclear, but it was first believed that a suspect entered through a rear bedroom window and assaulted the man first, then attacked the woman, possibly suffocating her.

Investigators also said they had arrested a male suspect in the morning hours, but his identity has not been released.

The crime occurred on a largely commercial block, with apartment units above storefronts, including those for restaurants, clothing stores and a daycare. The homicide appeared to take place in an apartment above Lenin's Style, a barber shop. It caused ripples of fear through the neighborhood, which some already feel is plagued by violence.

Neighbor Victoria Brunson called the couple "two beautiful people" and said she was rattled by the killing.

"It's just really sad," she said. "I couldn't ask for any better neighbors."

Her children would go to the store for the elderly couple and pair was known for being "really, really concerned about the neighborhood." Another neighbor said the two often went for walks together.

The husband owned several apartments and other buildings in the area. Brunson said she didn't know why anyone would harm the couple.

"I'm still baffled," she said.

Juantia Martina, who also lives in the area, said she was already fed up with crime in the neighborhood, and this latest incident had left her shaken.

She has lived around the corner from the site of the slaying for three and a half years and wants to move.

"There's too much violence," she said.

On Monday, Martina said she awoke to find her family's car had been broken into. The thieves had broken the door and tore out the stereo system. It's the second time her Honda Civic had been broken into on the block.

She said violent crimes have also happened nearby and she no longer feels safe.

"This is ridiculous," she said.