Girl, 14, charged in death of local animal rescuer


The murder of Albert Chernoff took another disturbing turn this week, as a 14-year-old girl was arrested in the murder of the local animal rescuer.

The Inquirer reports Ajahnae Smaugh was arrested and charged with murder on Thursday for the death of the 59-year-old Chernoff. She was also charged tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice and possession of an instrument of crime. Smaugh turned herself into the police on Thursday.

The Northeast Philadelphia man was found dead early Tuesday morning, found tied to a bed with a massive wound on his head. He also had several slash marks to his chest. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

A surveillance video released by the police showed the young girl, believed to be Smaugh, walking through the living room and the kitchen, washing her hands and opening the refrigerator and freezer before leaving the home.

Chernoff was known as “Alley Cat” and was a rescuer of stray cats. He even appeared once on the show “Rescue Ink” to discuss his cause. Animal-welfare workers found a number of animals in his home after his death, including almost a dozen cats, three turtles and two frogs.

According to the Inquirer, Chernoff also worked for the city for a long time and served as building maintenance supervisor at the Philadelphia International Airport.

An added tragic element was revealed by a GoFundMe page set up to pay for Chernoff’s funeral expenses: Chernoff was a veteran. An update on the page note the funeral date as Nov. 24, almost two weeks after Veterans Day, which is Monday.

The page reads: “As you know Al’s kids were his cats. We are raising money in Al’s honor to help defer the costs of his funeral and provide to animal rescue. Al was a huge part of the rescue community and we want to be sure his legacy continues on. Al also was a Veteran and a loved riding his motorcycle. This is a big loss amongst the many communities Al touched.”

The fundraiser quickly surpassed its goal of raising $15,000, raising more than that with the help of nearly 500 donors.

No motive has been revealed in Chernoff’s murder.

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