NBC News and news services
updated 12/21/2010 10:56:50 AM ET 2010-12-21T15:56:50

A Philadelphia man fearing vigilantes had to call police for help after someone posted his picture on fliers and a Facebook page, falsely naming him as the suspect in a string of strangling deaths.

Philadelphia police said someone distributed fliers bearing the man's name, address and photo in the city's Kensington neighborhood, where a series of killings and sex assaults have residents on edge.

The flier found its way to Facebook, where it was posted on a group called "Catch the Kensington Strangler, before he catches someone you love," which had more than 8,000 followers early Tuesday.

Police said whoever distributed the fliers could face charges.

  1. Related content
    1. Police Release New Video of Kensington Strangler
    2. Has the Kensington Strangler Struck Again?
    3. FBI Joins Hunt for Kensington Strangler
    4. Kensington Attacks -- Is There a Serial Strangler?

NBC Philadelphia reported there have been three murders and at least three other violent assaults in the area, which have been linked to the "Kensington Strangler."

Anonymous tips
Richie Antipuna, co-creator of the Facebook page, told the station that "a lot of people don't want to talk to the cops ... so we created the page... to let people inform each other of what's going on."

Video: Facebook takes on Philly strangler (on this page)

They have passed anonymous tips to the police, NBC Philadelphia said, but when the photograph of the innocent man appeared, the police posted their own message on Antipuna's site.

    1. Hoffman withdrew $1,200 hours before death: sources

      Philip Seymour Hoffman withdrew a total of $1,200 from an ATM at a supermarket near his New York City apartment the night before he was found lifeless in his bathroom with a syringe still in his left arm, sources told NBC News.

    2. NYC mayor will skip St. Pat's parade over gay ban
    3. Indiana man back home 18 years after abduction
    4. 32 states in the path of another wild storm
    5. Judge vows quick ruling on Va. marriage ban

"The photograph of a male displayed on this Fan Page. . . which has been posted as a suspected wanted in the Kensington Stranger case IS NOT CORRECT," police wrote.

The moderator of the Facebook group posted a message saying the man wrongly identified as a suspect "just became another VICTIM of the Kensington strangler."

"Anybody can put a picture up of anyone and cause a life of pain and ruin to that person, i dont know who posted it originally, but ... (this) has been cleared up from the philadelphia police dept. So PLEASE stop spreading this HORRIBLE RUMOR, because that is all it is JUST A RUMOR. Thank You," the moderator wrote.

A surveillance video was released last week by investigators, which was taken shortly before a man attacked a woman in the early hours of Dec. 6, NBC Philadelphia reported.

"This is not a phantom, this male did not crawl into a hole," Special Victims Unit Cpt. John Darby said, according to the station's report. "He's out there interacting with others."

The latest victim was Casey Mahoney, 27, who was found dead Wednesday.

She was strangled and there were signs of sexual assault, according to an autopsy Thursday, NBC Philadelphia said. DNA tests are being carried out to determine if she as killed by the same person who murdered the other two victims, Elaine Goldberg and Nicole Piacentini.

  1. Get updates
    1. Follow us on Twitter

      Get the latest updates on this story and others from @breakingnews.

    2. Text NEWS to 67622 to receive mobile alerts

Goldberg, who was a nursing student at Gwynedd Mercy College, was choked to death on Nov. 3. Piacentini's body was found on Nov. 13. She had also been strangled.

"Based on similarities, it appears that it may be the work of the individual responsible for the first two murders," said Deputy Commissioner William Blackburn, NBC Philadelphia reported.

"We're asking the public, someone knows this individual, to reach out and contact the police, contact homicide. It's critical that we get this person off the streets," he added.

The Associated Press and NBC News contributed to this report.

Video: Facebook takes on Philly strangler

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments