Confession questioned ahead of ‘Strangler’ trial

A defense attorney for the alleged “Kensington Strangler” tried to strike a key blow to the prosecution’s case yesterday by asking a judge to dismiss his client’s confession to police.

Antonio Rodriguez, 23, is facing first-degree murder charges for allegedly strangling three prostitutes in the city’s Kensington section in late 2010. He has agreed to a non-jury trial in exchange for not facing the death penalty if convicted.

Homicide Detective James Pitts testified that Rodriguez identified photos of the victims — Elaine Goldberg, Nicole Piacentini and Casey Mahoney — as women he met on the street and had sex with. In the statement, Pitts testified, Rodriguez said that Goldberg consented to being choked while having sex, but eventually stopped moving.

In Piacentini’s case, Rodriguez said she did not agree to be choked, but he did it anyway, Pitts testified. Rodriguez first told detectives that he let the young woman go when she screamed, but after being warned that science might later contradict his statement, Rodriguez admitted that he continued having sex with her even after he thought she was dead, Pitts said.

“I’m pretty certain she was dead those additional times,” Rodriguez said, according to Pitts. Pitts said that when Rodriguez was asked why he tried to flee from police, he answered, “Because I knew that I strangled those women.”

Pitts testified that he read Rodriguez his rights each time before taking two separate statements and that Rodriguez waived his right to an attorney both times. Pitts said he was not present for the third statement.

Defense Attorney William Bowe tried to argue, through cross-examination of Pitts, that the sworn statement was coerced.

Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Minehart is expected to rule on the motion today. Once he does, the prosecution is expected to begin its case.

If convicted, Rodriguez would receive a mandatory life sentence.

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