A 75-year-old man has been charged with the murder of his wife after claiming she was killed early Monday by an intruder who broke into their Northeast Philadelphia apartment, police said.
Louis Hartdegen was awaiting a bail hearing Tuesday morning on murder and related charges in the beating and suffocation death of Judith Hartdegen, 74.
Police have not disclosed a motive, but the couple had filed for bankruptcy in February, citing more than $42,000 in credit card debts, according to court papers.
Homicide Capt. James Clark said Hartdegen initially implicated a 26-year-old neighbor, who was questioned for several hours Monday before suspicions turned to Hartdegen.
Clark said that "there were discrepancies" between Hartdegen's statements to police and evidence at the crime scene.
After Judith Hartdegen, was found dead in the second-floor apartment she shared with her husband in the 6700 block of Castor Avenue. police originally reported the couple had been beaten by an intruder who climbed through a rear bedroom window about 2:20 a.m. She was pronounced dead at 2:53 a.m while Louis Hartdegen was transported to Aria Health-Torresdale Campus for treatment of face and head injuries.
The block is a commercial strip with apartments on the second floors. The residences are accessed from an alley. A police patrol car was parked at the rear of the building Monday morning while Crime Scene Unit officers searched for evidence in the apartment.
Neighbors said the couple had been married for more than 50 years.
Louis Hartdegen is a Vietnam War veteran and a retired U.S. Postal Service worker, according to the Rev. Robert Bey, a neighbor from nearby Knorr Street.
"They were good folks," Bey said. "This is horrible, and of course my prayers are with him."
He said Judith Hartdegen was "very quiet" and always by her husband's side.
Bey, 56, a retired Marine Corps captain and assistant pastor at Wynnefield Baptist Church, said the crime was "frightening."
"I just can't believe it," said another neighbor, Alan Wise, 58, who also served in the Marines.
Castor Avenue neighbor Richard Raymond said he was awakened about 2 a.m. Monday to the sound of glass breaking and went back to sleep, assuming the noise was from the usual neighborhood antics. Twenty minutes later he saw the red and blue flashes of patrol cars.
Speaking before the report of the arrest, Raymond, 39, said Louis Hartdegen collected rent on behalf of the business owners on the block.
Hartdegen, who walks with a limp from a war injury, often talks about his children, including a son who is a U.S. marshal, Bey said.
"They were very kind people who took care of everybody," Kerper Street neighbor Roberto Rodriguez, 54, said.
Neighbors said the couple helped clean up trash on the block.
Police investigators cleared the crime scene at about 11 a.m. Monday.