Philadelphia police found the body of another woman in Kensington on 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, not far from where other women have been found dead.
"It is a suspicious death," said Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, who was on the scene. "She is nude from the waist down. . . . She appears to be, maybe, in her 20s, Caucasian."
Three women have been strangled in the area in recent weeks, though police say one of the deaths was unlikely to be related. Three other women have told police that they were attacked and that their assailants sexually assaulted them or tried to do so.
"Very, very suspicious circumstances," Ramsey said of the body found Wednesday. "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, who might have been a woman, reported an unconscious woman near the railroad tracks. A Fire Department crew responded and found the body.
Police surrounded a pay phone with crime-scene tape at Front and Cambria Streets. Investigators said they believed the 911 call was made there and dusted the phone for fingerprints around 8 p.m.
The area near the railroad tracks along Tusculum is well known for drug use, residents said. Holes in the chain-link fence allow easy access to 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 two deaths through 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 was connected to the other two.
Santiago said she was a drug addict and knew two of the murder victims.
"I sell my body," she said, but added that "ever since Nicole" she had found other ways to make money.
"I probably know this chick," she said of the woman found Wednesday.
Another resident, Antonio Rivera, 49, said, "Kids don't go down there to play because they know better."
He said that when he sees prostitutes along the tracks, they are usually there to get high.
A neighborhood woman who gave only her first name, Angie, 27, said her brothers, who are police officers, had warned her not to go out after a certain time and to drive instead of walk, even to corner stores.
Still, the discovery of the body near her home was "a total shock," she said.
Ramsey said police would hold the area as a crime scene overnight so investigators could look for evidence in daylight Thursday. He said the medical examiner would conduct an autopsy.
"It's a high-risk area," police spokesman Lt. Ray Evers said. "There are a lot of possibilities as far as what can happen to someone."