Justen Smith (left) and Terry Ballard (right) were charged with the murders of an elderly Strawberry Mansion couple. Credit: PPD
Two young men confessed to strangling and suffocating an elderly couple to death in Strawberry Mansion last week, police said today.
And one of the men was the grandson of the victim's best friend.
According to Homicide Capt. James Clark, the two men — Justen Smith, 19, of Glen Campbell in Western Pennsylvania, and Terry Ballard, 26, of the 3400 block of Huntingdon Street — were charged with the murders of 79-year-old Rufus Perry, and his 66-year-old wife, Gladys Perry.
Clark called the incident a "Brutal and senseless" murder.
Apparently the two men were hired to help tidy up the couple's house, on the 2500 North Spangler Street, for a small payment.
But while inside the home on Thursday one of the men found an envelope in the kitchen containing $120. As he pulled out the cash Gladys Perry confronted him and a struggle ensued.
The man started to choke Gladys, and when her husband tried to intervene, the other thief started to choke him as well. The two were then suffocated with pillows.
The duo grabbed the $120, and then yanked a gold chain off the neck of Rufus.
The couple's daughter found the two at the bottom of a stairwell around 1 a.m. on Thursday.
A neighbor spotted the boys in the couple's backyard the day of the murder. When police arrived they found the men just around the corner nonchalantly talking.
Clark said Ballard lives with his grandmother, who is best friends with Gladys Perry. They live around the corner from the scene of the crime.
Both are charged with two counts of murder, burglary, robbery and criminal conspiracy.