The smell of gas coming from a South Philadelphia apartment lead police to a grisly crime scene yesterday morning.

Investigators responded to a first floor apartment on the 1300 block of Dickinson Street shortly before 10 a.m. and found the bodies of tenant Eugene C. Zappacosta, 78, in the bathroom and an unidentified black woman in her 40s in the living room. Both had their throats slit and suffered from multiple stab wounds. Two small Yorkie-type dogs were also stabbed to death.

The killer turned on the gas "probably to block their tracks and blow up the place," said Capt. James Clark of the Homicide Unit. "It was an extremely brutal, brutal killing. You had an elderly man, a female and two little dogs brutally, brutally murdered."

Neighbors gathered at the scene said that the house was well-known in the neighborhood for drug and prostitution activity, though none of the longtime residents, even those from his own building, knew Zappacosta. "I see from my window people standing here at 2 o'clock in the morning," said Hadia Connor, who has been living in the third floor apartment for nine years. "What are they standing there for? It's all people going in and out, in and out and we don't even know who lives there."

 

The killings speak to a deeper issue of a neighborhood in flux, a tight-knit, mostly elderly and Italian community blocks away from trendy Passyunk Avenue that is being flooded with renters who can't afford the pricier properties on the row of shops, restaurants and bars.

"I'm telling my daughter it's not safe – we have to move," Connor said, adding that her daughter had her car window smashed twice in one week.

"It's not necessarily an increase in crime we've been seeing, just transient people," said neighbor Valerie Izzei.

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