Man killed three people in one day, police say

Philadelphia Police Homicide Capt. Jason Smith speaks to reporters Wednesday, March 10, at police headquarters.
PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

A 36-year-old Philadelphia man went on a murder spree in January, killing three people in a matter of hours, authorities said Wednesday.

Donald Tillman allegedly shot his wife, Tyronda Herrington, in the early morning hours of Jan. 20 inside a house in Wissinoming, then went to an apartment in Bustleton, where, investigators said, he executed a couple.

During the first shooting, Herrington’s two children, ages 4 and 14, were in the home, and Tillman has been charged with the attempted murder of the elder child, according to prosecutors.

His attorneys did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday.

Tillman has been in custody since Jan. 26, when he was identified at Jefferson Torresdale Hospital. Surveillance footage showed him arriving at the medical center at 1:30 p.m. on the day of the murders, police said.

Donald Tillman PHOTO: Police

Following his arrest, he was charged with Herrington’s killing, and, last week, authorities added two additional murder counts in relation to the deaths of 59-year-old Mark Ruff and 43-year-old Nicole Newell inside the apartment on the 9400 block of Roosevelt Boulevard.

Ballistic evidence from both crime scenes show the same handgun was used, and video from multiple locations captures Tillman wearing Ruff’s U.S. Army jacket, which was missing from the apartment, Philadelphia Homicide Capt. Jason Smith said.

Also missing from the apartment was a set of car keys that were later found in dumpsters on the 8900 block of Krewstown Road. Smith said surveillance cameras show a man in a black Army jacket discarding the keys.

In addition, detectives found a cell phone on the couch of the Bustleton apartment that belonged to Tillman, according to police.

Images from the hospital also showed him arriving in the jacket.

Ruff, an Army veteran, and Tillman knew each other, but their relationship was unclear, Smith said.

Phone records indicate Tillman called Ruff at 3:47 a.m. Jan. 20, about 20 minutes after police discovered Herrington’s body on the 2000 block of Carver Street, authorities said.

Investigators believe Newell was at the apartment when Tillman arrived, and Ruff wasn’t home. Tillman allegedly killed her and waited for Ruff’s return.

Both had gunshot wounds to the back of the head, and their bodies weren’t discovered for two days.

“I’ve never been able to establish a motive,” Smith told reporters Wednesday.

He declined to comment on whether authorities were looking at Tillman in connection with other shootings.

Tillman was on probation at the time of the killings after pleading guilty in 2015 to illegally possessing a firearm. He has a total of 20 prior arrests, according to Smith, and, as a convicted felon, is not allowed to own a gun.

“We may never know what motivated Donald Tillman to commit the horrifically violent crimes we allege he committed over the course of one day last January,” District Attorney Larry Krasner said in a statement.

“But we do know that prohibitions on the lawful purchase of firearms placed on him as a convicted felon were essentially worthless, and that Pennsylvania is flooded with deadly weapons that are too cheap and too easily accessible,” he continued.

Tillman is being held without bail on three counts of murder, two counts of robbery and burglary, and one count of attempted murder and child endangerment.

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