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Strangulation victim’s friend: 'She was a beautiful person'

Left: Police released this sketch of a suspect based on a description by a woman who survived an attempted strangling. Right: Facebook photo of Allison Edwards, who was a victim of a separate strangling.
Left: Police released this sketch of a suspect based on a description by a woman who survived an attempted strangling. Right: Facebook photo of Allison Edwards, who was a victim of a separate strangling.Read more

For the third time in five weeks police are grappling with the strangulation murder of a woman in the Kensington area.

All three victims battled drug addiction, including Allison Edwards, a 22 year-old Michigan native who was sober for six months and started using drugs again only days before her death, said her mother, Karen Emery.

Edwards was found Friday in a Juniata Park apartment, just north of the Kensington neighborhood where two other women were found strangled on Nov. 3 and Nov. 13.

Until Wednesday, Edwards had been living with her mother in Levittown, when she started to drink and then left home with no money or car, said her mother.

"She told me she was just getting it out of her system before she went back to sobriety again," said Emery.

Investigators have not officially connected her death to the two other murders, which have been linked by DNA evidence. However, a police task force has been charged with investigating all three crimes.

Edwards' mother noted the similarity in dates in an interview Sunday--all three victims were found on a date containing the numeral 3, including her daughter who was found Dec. 3rd. "It seems like something (for police) to look at."

Police have released a composite sketch of a man wanted for questioning in the first two slayings. He is described by police as an African American or Hispanic male in his late 20's or early 30's, 5 feet 8 inches to 6 feet tall, medium complexion and low cut hair.

Two other women have come forward to say that while in the Kensington area in October they were attacked and choked by an assailant. One of the women provided the description that was used to produce the sketch.

Edwards started using drugs as a teenager, but became a heavy user of heroin while living in Australia, where a male friend died of a drug overdose, said Charlene Hicks, a longtime friend from Michigan. "She was clean for a while, but then she moved to Australia and that's when it all went down hill," said Hicks.

In January, Edwards returned to the United States to enter a drug rehab program.

"She has been struggling with drug addiction for a while," said Emery, 49. "She had just got off six months of sobriety, and she had been living with me." Then, "She took a drink and that set her off, that was Wednesday. She just walked away from my house without a coat on. She took her tooth brush. I thought she might be staying with a friend."

She had no idea that her daughter ended up in Juanita Park.

Hicks said she spoke with Edwards by phone on Wednesday, encouraging her to go back to rehab or a halfway house.

"Its so hard for people to get off that stuff," said Hicks," 20.

"I want people to know that she is is not some stupid drug addict. She was a beautiful person. . .She was trying to do the right thing.

Edwards, the mother of a five-year-old daughter, Morgan who lives with her father in Michigan, had attended community college classes there. She had 515 friends on her Facebook page. Her last entry was on Monday, Nov. 29, shortly before 11 p.m. "Sooo sick... watching tv, snuggling with my blanket and pup," she wrote. Edwards had recently purchased a dog, Zelda, and was working at a pet store.

"She wanted to get clean, and become the mom she knew she could be," said Hicks.

Emery said she does not believe her daughter was familiar with the row house where her body was found, on Glendale Street near the intersection with Erie Avenue. The apartment is about two miles from one of the two spots in Kensington where the bodies of the strangled women were found last month.

A friend of Edwards who had helped her battle her addiction was also unfamiliar with the Glendale address, said Emery.

"Her sponsor told me that she was texting Allison as late as Thursday..she has never heard of the street where she was found," said Emery.

Emery said her daughter had told her she may have met one of the earlier strangulation victims, but didn't provide her mother any more information.

The family moved to Pennsylvania four and a half years ago in search of a better economic climate.

"She had a nice job, she worked at Pet Smart," a pet supply business, "and she was going to be groomer. They were going to send her to grooming school next month," Emery said.

Edwards struggle with drugs resulted in a massive overdose that nearly killed her. She suffered a heart attack and a stroke as a result of that incident which limited the use of her hands. Edwards overcame those problems through intensive therapy, her mother said.

The first of the strangulation killings occured on Nov. 3rd, when the body of Elaine Goldberg, a 21-year-old nursing student at Gwynedd-Mercy College, was found in a lot on the 2800 block of Ruth Street.

The body of Nicole Piacentini, 35, was discovered Nov. 13 less than a mile away, behind a building on the 1900 block of East Cumberland Street.

Both bodies were found partially clothed. Police said the women had been sexually assaulted and strangled. Family members have said Piacentini and Goldberg had battled longtime drug problems.

Edwards was found at around 8 p.m. Friday, and the medical examiner ruled Saturday that she had been strangled.

Services for her will be held Wednesday at the Burns Funeral Home, 1514 Woodbourne Road, Levittown. A viewing will be from 3 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. followed at 6 p.m. by an "open service where anyone can speak," her mother said.

Her father, John Edwards, lives in Connecticut, and a brother, Keith Edwards, lives in New York City.

Contact staff writer Nathan Gorenstein at 215-854-2997 or