A man police today labeled a "career criminal" has been arrested and charged with attacking and murdering a 60-year-old Upper Darby man last month and raping the man's wife.
Authorities characterized the hammer-and-chisel attack as particularly "brutal" and said Jermaine Burgess, 37, also is being questioned in connection with two other murders.
On the night of Nov. 10, Burgess allegedly broke into the Copley Road home of Hoa Pham. Burgess chose the Pham home because the lights were off, said Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood in announcing the arrest.
When Burgess discovered the couple in their second floor bedroom, he forced them downstairs, then tied Pham and his wife up and beat them with a hammer and a chisel, Chitwood said. When Burgess demanded cash from the couple, Pham's wife gave him $105, but he told her that was not enough, according to court documents.
Burgess threw Pham's wife to the floor, then sexually assualted her, court records say. She managed to escape to a nearby relative's house as Burgess again attacked her husband, according to court records.
When authorities arrived, Pham was unresponsive and bleeding, his wrists still bound.
Pham was a decorated veteran of the South Vietnamese army who fought alongside American soldiers and spent seven years in a North Vietnamese reeducation camp alongside one of his sons. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and his wife was taken to the hospital for treatment of stab wounds and fractures and bruising around her face, hands, arms and head.
She is now out of the hospital and living with one of her adult children.
The couple had six children and arrived in the United States 17 years ago.
Pham worked as a subassembly technician for Alloy Surfaces, a subcontractor for the Department of Defense, in Chester Township, and was active in St. Alice Roman Catholic Church across the street from his home.
Late Friday night, authorities arrested Burgess, who Chitwood said has a criminal record dating to the late 1980s. Upper Darby police said they tracked him down using DNA evidence.
At the time of his arrest by Upper Darby authorities, Burgess already was in jail in Philadelphia. Officials said he is accused of committing a violent carjacking last week and is being questioned in connection with two other murders, including the September killing of Jane Morgan, 84, of Upper Darby.
"This guy's a bad guy," Chitwood said at a news conference today. "It's a slam dunk. He's locked up, and this is the guy."
Burgess, who has lived in Upper Darby and Philadelphia, has the words "Lawless Hoodlum" tattooed on his arm, authorities said.
Upper Darby officials alerted Pham's family to the arrest yesterday.
"They're very, very relieved that he's off the street," Chitwood said.
Appearing in a preliminary arraignment before Magesterial District Judge John Capuzzi today, Burgess wore an orange jumpsuit and stood with his head down, telling Capuzzi in a low voice that he understood the charges against him.
Capuzzi refused to grant Burgess bail, and ordered him sent back to prison.
Burgess' next court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 29 in Upper Darby.
If convicted, Burgess faces life in prison or the death penalty.