Philadelphia police found the body of another woman in Kensington Wednesday evening and the task force investigating the strangling of women in that area was on the scene.
The body was found in a weedy railroad right-of-way along the 100 block of East Tusculum Street, which is not far from where other women have been found dead.
"It is a suspicious death," said Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, who quickly appeared on the scene Wednesday evening. "She is nude from the waist down ... She appears to be, maybe, in her 20s, Caucasian."
Three women were strangled in the area in recent weeks, though police say one of those deaths is unlikely to be related to the others. Three other women told police they were attacked and the assailant sexually assaulted them or tried to do so.
"Very, very suspicious circumstances," Ramsey said of Wednesday night's discovery. "We don't know how long she's been there ... We're still searching the scene. It's still fresh."
Ramsey said that at 5:05 p.m. police received a 911 call from a pay phone in the area. He said the caller might have been a woman, who reported an unconscious woman near the railroad tracks. The fire department responded and found the body.
Police surrounded a pay phone with crime-scene tape at the corner of Front and Cambria Streets. Investigators said they believe the 911 call was made from there and they dusted the phone for finger prints around 8 p.m.
Ramsey said that for a person to come across the body where it was found, he or she would have had to go back to that area because it is off the street.
The area near the railroad tracks along Tusculum is a well-known area for drug use, residents said. Holes are cut in the chain-link fence to allow easy access to the litter-strewn embankments leading to the tracks below.
"I've been down there. It's not nice," said Octania Santiago, 34, who lives in the area.
On Nov. 3, Elaine Goldberg was found strangled in a lot off Somerset Street. On Nov. 13, Nicole Piacentini was found strangled a few blocks away and police have linked the deaths with DNA evidence. A third woman, Allison Edwards, was found strangled off Erie Avenue, near Kensington Avenue, but police are less inclined to think her death is connected to the other two. Also, three other women told police they were attacked in the area of the first two deaths.
Santiago said she was a drug addict and knew two of the murder victims.
"I sell my body," Santiago said, "but ever since Nicole ..." she has been finding other ways to make money.
"I probably know this chick," she said, referring to the dead woman found Wednesday.
Another area resident, Antonio Rivera, 49, said, "kids don't go down there to play, because they know better."
He said if he sees prostitutes along the tracks, it is usually to get high.
A neighborhood woman who only gave her first name, Angie, 27, said she had brothers who were police officers and they've warned her not to go out after a certain time and to drive instead of walk, even to the local corner stores.
Still, the discovery of the body near her home was "a total shock," she said.
Ramsey said Wednesday that police would hold the area as a crime scene overnight so investigators could look for evidence and clues in daylight on Thursday. He said the medical examiner would do an autopsy to establish the official cause of death, so a definitive tie to the other deaths and attacks would not be made Wednesday night.
"It's a high-risk area," Police spokesman Lt. Ray Evers said of the neighborhood. "There are a lot of possibilities as far as what can happen to someone."