Cold case suspect charged with two 1989 murders on DNA evidence

Rudolph Churchill. Credit: PPD Rudolph Churchill. Credit: PPD

After 25 years, two long-standing cold cases may have been closed by the Philadelphia Police Department’s Homicide Unit.

Philadelphia Police arrested Rudolph Churchill, 51, at 9 a.m. this morning on charges of two 1989 murders after identifying the suspect through DNA testing.

Churchill was identified by the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), which matched DNA from the 1989 crime scenes to an offender in the state of Georgia, who also had an address in New Jersey.

Philadelphia homicide detectives reportedly contacted Churchill, got a search and seizure warrant, and obtained a new DNA sample from Churchill, on the basis of which an arrest was approved.

The two murders occurred over two months in 1989.

On Friday, March 17, 1989, officers received a call around 3:35 a.m. for a rape in progress at 15th and Thompson streets, according to police.

In a lot filled with abandoned cars, officers reportedly were directly to an Oldsmobile with a woman lying on the rear floor of the car.

The body was identified through fingerprints as that of Ruby Ellis, 19, of 2500 West Girard Avenue, with the cause of death determined to be ligature strangulation and beating.

Five weeks later, on Sunday, April 23, 1989, officers received a report of a body inside a bar on the 1200 block of West Girard Avenue.

Police found a bar that reportedly had been burned out and vacant for months.

Underneath the second floor stairway leading up to the third floor, officers found a decomposed female corpse. The victim had a shoe string tied around her neck and a sock stuffed in her mouth.

That victim was identified through fingerprints as Cheryl Hanible, 33, of the 2100 block of South 58th Street. Again, the cause of death was determined to be ligature strangulation and beating.

Churchill was arrested on the 1400 block of Fairmount Avenue this morning.

Churchill, of the 200 block of Huff Street in Paulsboro, New Jersey, is charged with two counts of murder.

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