When television cameras and reporters descended on Kensington last month to cover news of a serial killer strangling women, Richie Antipuna and Heather Barton saw a chance to bring a neighborhood perspective to the story.
Antipuna and Barton, both 38, childhood friends who grew up in Kensington, started shooting short video segments to capture the voices of those who work and live there - people who were concerned about the neighborhood's violence and drug dealing long before a killer started preying on vulnerable women.
"I've always been proud to say I'm from Kensington," said Antipuna, a former crane operator on disability who lives in Port Richmond. "When I was growing up, it was a tight neighborhood, you knew everybody. And there are good people here who are upset about what's happening."
Antipuna and Barton met in first grade at Lewis Elkin Elementary School in Kensington. Though both have moved out of the community, they still have family and friends in the neighborhood.
They took a camera to the streets and started interviewing residents, local activists, and anyone else who wanted to talk about the area's crime problems. They turned that footage into The Richie Antipuna Show, which is posted online and which also runs on PhillyCAM, the city's public-access network on Comcast channel 66 or 966. The duo have created several episodes a week over the last month.
"We're giving the whole entire picture," said Barton, who lives with her three children in a suburb north of Philadelphia. "We're going right to the people, right to the horse's mouth, and getting it."
For more than a month, police have been scouring Kensington for a man suspected in the stranglings and sexual assaults of three women. The victims were all white, between the ages of 21 and 35, and all had struggled with drug addiction. DNA evidence has determined that one man is responsible for the slayings.
Police are also looking for a man suspected of choking and sexually assaulting three other women in attacks that were not fatal. A police sketch depicting the suspect has been plastered all over Kensington, but it is not known whether that man is the same person as the killer.
In addition to taping their show, Antipuna and Barton created a Facebook page earlier this month to help spread the word about the killings. For about two weeks, the "Catch the Kensington strangler . . . before he catches someone you love" page served as a clearinghouse for information on the strangler and attracted about 11,000 followers.
The page drew unwanted attention when someone posted a picture of a man who was purported to be the killer. Someone also distributed fliers in the neighborhood displaying the man's address. Soon a crowd formed outside his house, and police had to escort him out. He has been cleared of any involvement with the slayings.
The "Catch the Kensington strangler" page took part of the blame for the controversy. Antipuna and Barton say that they did not post the picture, and that they asked the person who posted it to remove it, but the damage was done; local and international websites following the story started calling them "vigilantes."
The page was disabled Friday and remains down. Antipuna and Barton said they did not know why it was pulled but suspected it had to do with the picture.
A Facebook representative said the company was looking into what happened.
That setback aside, Antipuna and Barton said the response to their work had been positive.
"We think what we're doing is good for our community," Antipuna said. "We didn't create [the Facebook page] for any other reason other than for the community to grieve and vent."
The killings and attacks have turned the spotlight on a neighborhood used to being ignored, Barton said, which could serve as a valuable eye-opener for those who perhaps weren't aware of Kensington's problems.
Antipuna said he hoped people outside Kensington would consider that the neighborhood's troubles affected them, too. After all, he said, all three slain women were from other areas: Port Richmond, the Northeast, and East Stroudsburg, Pa. They came to Kensington, he said, because they knew they could score drugs there.
"Is this really a Kensington problem?" Antipuna asked. "It's the city, it's the suburbs - it's everybody's problem."
Episodes of The Richie Antipuna Show are at therichieantipunashow.blip.tv/