Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.

March 2, 2004 6pm

city beat

Arrest Made in "Serial-Killer" Case

Police hold a suspect in connection with the death of one of three women recently found dead.

A 27-year-old pharmacy employee from West Philadelphia is being held in connection with the death of 24-year-old Jena Tadrzynski — one of three women whose bodies were found dumped in the near Northeast and who may be the victims of a serial killer.

City Paper has learned that Ralph Pitt, who was living in an apartment building on the 400 block of North 41st Street, was arrested last Friday and charged with abuse of corpse and drug possession, according to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.

Pitt, who is being held on $200,000 bail, has told police he did not kill Tadrzynski. Pitt has not been charged with murder, but investigators say they are “keeping an open mind” about his role in Tadrzyski’s strangling as well as the deaths of Charisse Eschert, 28, and Karen Lynn DeWitt, 31, who — like Tadrzynski — whose bodies were found strangled and dumped.

According to the D.A.’s Office, Pitt told investigators that on the morning of Feb. 7, he picked up Tadrzynski near her apartment on Frankford Avenue and took her back to West Philadelphia. They spent the day having sex and taking the drug Ativan — which police say Pitt stole from the Excellerx Pharmacy at Sixth and Walnut streets. where he was working. A woman answering the phone at the pharmacy would not comment about Pitt.

According to sources with knowledge of the case, Pitt told investigators that Tadrzynski stayed at his apartment through Monday and that when he left to go to work that morning, she was still alive. According to investigators, Pitt confessed that when he returned at about 6 p.m., she was dead, possibly from an overdose of Ativan.

Then, Pitt “panicked,” according to Ed McCann, chief homicide investigator with the D.A.’s Office, and dumped Tadrzynski’s naked body into a pile of garbage at a trash-transfer station in the city’s Bridesburg neighborhood later that night. McCann says Pitt told police that when he found Tadrzynski, she was fully clothed. Her naked body was found by a worker at the trash-transfer station Feb. 10.
Sources close to the investigation say Pitt was turned in by his roommate, whose name is not being released, on Fri., Feb. 27, and that Pitt was arrested later that night.

“A lawyer brings the roommate to McCann and the guy tells a story of how his friend picked up this woman and killed her, wrapped up the body and dumped her,” says a source with knowledge of the investigation. “The D.A.’s homicide guys go at it with him, but the most he will admit to is abuse of corpse.”

While the roommate is not being held, investigators say that they are not ruling anything out.

“It could have been the roommate too,” says a source close to the investigation. “We are trying to keep an open mind here, trying to figure out what we can to corroborate between the statements Pitt made and the statements his roommate made. Pitt says he didn’t kill her.”Both Pitt and his roommate agree on where and when Tadrzynski was dumped, the source says.

The roommate told police that Feb. 7 was not Pitt’s first encounter with Tadrzynski, according to the source. The two had been together two or three times in the past. The source adds that the roommate says Pitt dumped Tadrzynski in Bridesburg “because he was familiar with that area.” The roommate also told police he had no information about whether Pitt was involved in the Eschert or DeWitt homicides.

“The roommate claims he only knows about Tadrzynski,” according to the source.

Pitt is being held on charges of abusing a corpse, possession of about a pound of marijuana with intent to deliver and the theft of the Ativan from the pharmacy.

He is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing on Thursday in the police facility at 55th and Pine streets.

McCann says the DA’s office is awaiting the results of DNA tests performed on the victim to see if there are any matches.

“We don’t know if we have any DNA on this case,” he says. “The swabs were taken, but the thing is, the body was pretty dirty from being in the dump.”

The death of Tadrzynski and two other women have received tremendous publicity because police are investigating whether they are victims of a serial killer. A fourth female murder victim, Evelyn Rolon, 43, was found strangled two weeks ago in the Fairhill section of Philadelphia. Though her body was stuffed in a garbage bag across the street from an elementary school, her death is not being linked with the others.

“I’m not sure she fits,” a source close to the case says.

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