Trial begins for alleged ‘Kensington Strangler’ Antonio Rodriguez

Clad in a white tee shirt, blue sweat pants and ankle shackles, Antonio Rodriguez entered the courtroom, looked at his loved ones in the audience and shook his head as if in disgust.

“What, are you having a bad day?” a man with the families of Elaine Goldberg and Nicole Piacentini grumbled sarcastically from the audience.

Those were the most tense moments in the first day of Rodriguez’ first-degree murder trial. The 23-year-old stands accused of strangling three women whom he had sex with as the so-called “Kensington Strangler” in late 2010.

Nine police officers testified yesterday about finding the bodies of Goldberg, Piacentini and Casey Mahoney in seedy lots in the city’s Kensington section between November 3 and December 15, 2010. Each of the women were found laying face down, kneeling with their rear ends in the air and their pants removed, the officers testified.

Officer David Silcox, of the 24th District, found Goldberg, the first victim, in a lot on the 2800 block of Ruth Street. He testified that Goldberg had dried blood showing from her nose and mouth.

“Based on your experience and training, could you tell whether or not she was dead?” Assistant District Attorney Carlos Vega asked.

“She was dead,” Silcox said.

Earlier in the day, Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Minehart denied a motion by defense attorney William Bowe to dismiss three sworn statements Rodriguez made to police the night of his arrest Jan. 17, 2011. Minehart said homicide detectives sufficiently warned Rodriguez of his rights and that the statements were given voluntarily.

As part of the motion hearing Monday, Homicide Detective James Pitts read the graphic details of Rodriguez’ statements, articulating how he had sex with each of the women and choked them during intercourse. According to Pitts, Rodriguez said he propped Piacentini up in the back of an abandoned house after she appeared to be dead and continued to have intercourse with her.

The case is recessed until Thursday when someone from the Medical Examiner’s Office is expected to testify. The non-jury trial is expected to conclude this week before Minehart makes his decision.

Rodriguez agreed to a non-jury trial in exchange for not facing the death penalty if convicted. Instead, a conviction would mean a mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole.

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