A man police describe as a career criminal has been charged with a second murder in Delaware County, and police are investigating whether he was involved in other homicides, robberies or assaults.
Jermaine D. Burgess, 37, of the 300 block of Springton Road in Upper Darby, was charged yesterday with the Oct. 27 murder of 81-year-old Marie Ott of the 200 block of Crum Creek Drive in Ridley Township. Burgess is being held without bail in the Delaware County prison.
On Saturday, Burgess was arrested and charged in the Upper Darby home-invasion murder of Hoa Pham, a former lieutenant in the South Vietnamese army, on Nov. 10.
Burgess has a violent criminal history dating to 1989, court records show.
The investigation came together like "a puzzle falling into place," Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said, crediting old-fashioned police work and DNA forensic results.
Ridley Township police said Burgess confessed to killing Ott, a great-grandmother who loved playing the casinos and watching Tiger Woods play golf.
According to police, Burgess said he broke in through Ott's back window and demanded money from the disabled woman, who was sitting in a hospital bed in her living room. He then dragged her from her bed up a flight of stairs to ransack her bedroom.
When Burgess could not find more money, he went downstairs, took a butcher knife from the kitchen sink, returned upstairs, and repeatedly plunged the knife into Ott's chest. Burgess then tied a plastic bag over Ott's head, bound her hands, and left.
"This wasn't about robbery," said Detective Sgt. Scott Willoughby of Ridley Township. "He walked back upstairs with the specific intent to kill her."
Ridley Township police said Burgess was a suspect early in their investigation. During an interview, he provided police with a DNA sample, which they sent to a private lab in Willow Grove.
Burgess's DNA profile was already on record with Codis, a national DNA law-enforcement database, according to police.
During the investigation of Pham's murder, Upper Darby police were looking at others in the Copley Road area who had a criminal past.
"His name came up on the radar screen," Chitwood said.
Ridley investigators said they contacted Upper Darby about the similarities in the crimes. They told Upper Darby that samples of Burgess's DNA had been sent to the private lab, which usually takes less time to return results.
At the Pham murder scene, DNA samples found on a chisel, an electric cord, and a sandwich bag linked to Burgess, Chitwood said.
When Upper Darby police found Burgess, he was in custody in Philadelphia. He had been arrested in connection with a knifepoint carjacking Dec. 17 at 61st Street and Lansdowne Avenue.
Chitwood said police are looking into whether Burgess committed other crimes, such as the September murder of Jane Morgan, 84, in Upper Darby.
"It is a shame they didn't catch him sooner," said Ott's son, Joe Elia, 55, of Wallingford. "He destroyed two families' lives, and none of us will get over it."