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FBI joins police investigation of Philadelphia attacks

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • FBI joined police in search for suspect believed linked to five attacks
  • All of the victims were choked, and descriptions of attacker are similar
  • DNA from the same was found at the scene of both homicides
  • Police lack DNA evidence linking the homicides with the assaults, however
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(CNN) -- Federal investigators joined police in their search for a suspect believed to be linked to five attacks in a Philadelphia neighborhood, including two recent homicides and three aggravated assaults.

Because of the location, the method and the description of the victims, authorities believe there is a correlation between the homicides and assaults.

The attacks all occurred in the Kensington section of the city and have targeted white females, police spokesman Ray Evers said in a written statement. Police are heavily patrolling the neighborhood of Kensington, an area known for drugs and prostitution.

"The investigation appears to be limited to Philadelphia," FBI spokesman J.J. Klaver said Thursday. "This could change if there are any indications that the subject or subjects responsible for the crimes ... are linked to similar crimes elsewhere."

Federal agents joined the investigation earlier this week, utilizing resources from agency's behavioral analysis unit, violent criminal apprehension program, and its National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, Klaver said.

DNA evidence of one suspect was found at the scene of both homicides, Evers said. He says the other attacks may also be a result of the same suspect because of the similar nature of all the attacks and the description of the attacker. All five victims were choked, police said. The assault victims provided similar descriptions of their attacker, identified as a African-American male in his early 20s weighing between 160 and 170 pounds.

But authorities say they lack corroborating DNA evidence linking the assaults to the homicides because too much time lapsed between the initial two assaults in October and the time the victims notified police.

"The assault victims did not come forward until police began combing the Kensington for suspects and potential victims following the November homicides," according to Evers.

The latest assault occurred Monday, when a 33-year-old female was pulled into an alley. Despite being choked, punched and hit on the head with a brick, she escaped her assailant, who fled from the scene, according to a police statement.

All victims were white females involved in prostitution and narcotics, police said.

Elaine Goldberg, 21, and Nicole Piacentini, 35, were murdered last month.

Police have made close to 80 arrests involving prostitution in the area of Kensington.

Police discovered what they describe as a potential homicide Tuesday in the same neighborhood, but it was unclear whether the latest incident is related to the five attacks.

CNN's Megan Miller and Ross Levitt contributed to this report.