Police declined to provide the names of the victims, or precisely where they were from, pending notification of family. They said that the younger died first, in the early afternoon. They would not say where the two stayed in Atlantic City or if they were related.
Police Officer Jacob Abbruscato was patrolling the area where the attack occurred — at Pacific and Michigan Avenues, inside the newly created Atlantic City Tourism District — when he noticed what was happening and ran to assist the victims. Abbruscato drew his service weapon and ordered the suspect, Antoinette E. Pelzer, 44, of Philadelphia, to drop her knife and get on the ground.
Pelzer complied and was taken into custody. Police said she has a Pennsylvania driver’s license, but may have been living in the resort town.
“We are outraged by this random crime and saddened by the loss of two of our Canadian visitors. Our condolences go out to the victim’s family and friends. The safety of our residents and visitors is of the utmost importance to everyone here,” said Jeff Guaracino, a spokesman for the Atlantic City Alliance, which is spearheading a new ad campaign showcasing the seaside city’s non-gaming offerings.
About 10 percent of the nearly 30 million visitors to Atlantic City — down from 35 million half a dozen years ago — come from outside the United States, according to the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority.
Atlantic City casinos have lost $1.6 billion in total gambling revenue from a peak of $5.2 billion in 2006, mostly to new casinos in Pennsylvania and New York.
The seaside resort has been counting on this summer — with the opening of the $2.4 billion Revel on the northern end of the Boardwalk, blockbuster entertainment acts, and renovations at several Atlantic City casinos — to help turn the tide.
The stabbings of the two women are the third such deadly attack on Atlantic City tourists in the last two years.
Craig Arno, 44, was found guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday for the May 2010 murder of Martin Caballero, 47, of North Bergen, who was stabbed to death after being carjacked from a parking garage at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort. Arno’s girlfriend, Jessica Kisby, 25, pleaded guilty this year to charges stemming from her role in the killing.
And three Camden men are awaiting trial in the carjacking and shooting death of Sunil Rattu, 28, of Old Bridge, who was abducted along with his girlfriend from the same parking garage in September 2011.
Monday’s stabbing victims were taken to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center’s City Campus, located across the street from where the attack occurred at 10:07 a.m.
By Monday afternoon, both women had succumbed to their injuries, which consisted of multiple stab wounds to their upper body. Police said there was no indication that the victims knew the suspect.
Pelzer was initially charged with two counts of aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a weapon, possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes, and robbery. Bail has not been set and it is likely the charges will be upgraded overnight, according to Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel.
The attack on the tourists in the 1900 block of Pacific Avenue was an “unprovoked, random” incident that stunned locals and visitors along the busy corridor, a block from the Boardwalk and a couple of blocks from the Walk, a popular outlet shopping area, said Atlantic City Tourism District Cmdr. Thomas Gilbert.
“It’s going to be really important for us to figure out why this happened,” said Gilbert, a former lieutenant colonel with the New Jersey State Police who took command of public safety within the tourism district late last year.
The Christie administration launched an aggressive plan in 2010 to bolster New Jersey’s gaming industry and project a “clean and safe” image for the “Queen of Resorts” through a series of initiatives aimed at cracking down on crime.
“You hear about crime like this happening but you just never expect it. It’s really scary,” said Karen Layton of Long Branch, outside Bally’s hours after the deadly attack. Layton said she was visiting Atlantic City for the first time. She said she wasn’t sure she would return.
Katie Dougherty, a spokeswoman for Caesars Entertainment Inc., which owns Bally’s and three other Atlantic City casinos, referred all questions to the city police.
Gladys Pelzer of Philadelphia, who identified herself as the suspect’s mother to 6ABC, said on camera that she felt sorry for the victims and that her daughter was likely trying to steal a purse so she could obtain money for cigarettes.
The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office major crimes unit and the Atlantic City Police Department’s criminal investigations unit are investigating. Anyone with information is being asked to call the Prosecutor’s Office at 609-909-7666 or the Atlantic City Police Department at 609-347-5766.
Contact Jacqueline L. Urgo at 609-652-8382 or firstname.lastname@example.org or read the Jersey Shore blog Downashore at www.philly.com/downashore.