Police: Retired Philly Couple Killed by Suspects Hired for Chores


Couple Strangled Robbery

Undated photo combination of Justen Smith, left, and Terry Ballard. Police charged 26-yr-old Ballard and 19-yr-old Smith with murder, robbery and related offenses.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A retired Philadelphia couple was strangled by two men hired to do household chores after the wife caught one trying to steal money, authorities said Monday.

Rufus and Gladys Perry, who relatives said had been married more than 40 years, knew one of their alleged assailants and ended up being killed for $120 and a gold necklace, according to police.

“For it to be someone that they’re familiar with, someone that they knew, makes the pain even greater,” said Donald Carlton, the couple’s nephew.

Terry Ballard, 26, of Philadelphia, and Justen Smith, 19, of Glen Campbell, were charged with murder, robbery and related offenses. It wasn’t clear if they had attorneys.

The Perrys’ bodies were found early Thursday by one of their daughters in the stairwell of their rowhouse in the city’s Strawberry Mansion section. They had abrasions on their faces and necks, Homicide Capt. James Clark said.

Police believe the couple let in the men sometime Wednesday to do odd jobs. When one suspect allegedly tried to take an envelope of cash he found in the kitchen, 66-year-old Gladys Perry confronted him, Clark said. He attacked and choked her to death, and her 79-year-old husband was strangled and smothered with a pillow while trying to save her, according to police.

Neighbors later told investigators they had seen Ballard and another man in the victims’ backyard that day. Officers soon found the suspects and brought them in for questioning.

“They both admitted to their involvement in this brutal and senseless double murder,” Clark said.

Ballard, whose grandmother is a close friend of the Perrys, had recently moved back to the neighborhood after several years away, Clark said. He didn’t say how Ballard and Smith, whose hometown is in western Pennsylvania, knew each other.

Rufus Perry had worked for the city Streets Department, where nephew Donald Carlton now serves as deputy commissioner. Gladys, who is listed in public records as Algladis, had worked as a nurse at a local hospital.

The couple kept to themselves but were the rocks of their family — always the first to offer financial or emotional support, said Carlton. He thanked neighbors for helping with the investigation despite the city’s pervasive no-snitching culture.

“Too often in these cases, people don’t speak, they don’t want to get involved,” Carlton said. The fact that people came forward is “a testament to who my aunt and uncle were.”

Funeral arrangements were not yet complete, he said.

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