Fatal

Heidnik
Heidnik
Posted: February 05, 2013

THE THREE-STORY brick building on a busy corner in West Philly normally would not draw a second glance.

Dead house plants gather dust in the storefront windows of the long-closed business. Moldering mail piles in the foyer. Vandals have busted the windows and sprayed graffiti.

Yet some passers-by pause to gawk and even press their faces to the dirty windows for a peek.

People died in there.

The building is where Kermit Gosnell ran his abortion clinic for 38 years. Authorities raided it in early 2010, thinking Gosnell was running a pill mill. Instead, they found bleeding, incoherent women and scores of fetal remains. Investigators later determined that Gosnell allegedly performed illegal late-term abortions - and occasionally killed babies born live - and that at least one woman was given a fatal dose of medication.

Since its closure, the clinic has become a ghoulish attraction. Some visitors hunt for answers about the atrocities alleged to have happened inside, while others indulge their anger - about Gosnell's alleged crimes, or just abortion itself - via vandalism.

Such macabre tourism has sprung up around many of Philly's most murderous addresses. Residents and neighbors have handled the homes' horrific histories in differing ways.

Some try to erase the past by physically demolishing and rebuilding. Others have moved on, downplaying the oddity of their properties' gruesome pasts in a city with more than 300 murders a year.

Gosnell's clinic remains in legal limbo. With the disgraced doctor's trial set for March, the building is considered both evidence and asset and cannot be disturbed until the case ends.

Neighbors who knew nothing of the barbarity inside now cautiously eye the silent structure.

"There's so much vandalism - maybe once a month, there's something new. I'm worried it could grow into more than minor vandalism," said Dawn Mazzola, 21, a Drexel University junior who lives next door.

Time has dulled the ire and interest in the scenes of many of Philly's other most notorious murders. Here's a look at some:

Gary Heidnik's house. Heidnik kidnapped, tortured and raped six women, killing two, in his home on a working-class block of Marshall Street near Tioga in North Philly.

He kept his captives in a basement pit. He dismembered one victim, cooked her body, mixed it with dog food and fed it to his other victims. He was arrested in March 1987 after one captive escaped and alerted police. The house remains a residential property; its owner couldn't be reached for comment.

Neighbor Debbie Hensman-Ramirez, 40, a lifelong resident who knew Heidnik, said people still occasionally come by to stare. "Right after . . . we had crowds. Cops were there for months. Now they come only once in a blue moon," she said.

"I guess people are curious. I lived here and knew him, and I never knew about it. I understand them being curious."

The home, when Heidnik lived there, was three stories; a subsequent owner removed the third story, Hensman-Ramirez said. Also gone are the money-covered walls; Heidnik had shellacked pennies and one- and five-dollar bills onto the kitchen and bedroom walls, she added. "The cops took the walls," she said.

Lex Street massacre.In one of the biggest mass murders in Philly's history, 10 people were shot and seven killed on Dec. 28, 2000, in a crackhouse on Lex Street near Brown in West Philly.

Then, the gritty strip of row houses was among the city's most blighted and drug-infested. Now, the block looks plucked from Mayberry: The Philadelphia Housing Authority razed the crumbling homes and built new ones with white picket fences in 2007.

"People still sometimes drive through [to gawk], but it's a whole new block now," said Lex Street resident Terrell Roby, 20.

Harrison "Marty" Graham's house. Graham was a mentally retarded drug addict who strangled seven women, including a former girlfriend and other addicts, in the third-floor apartment he rented on 19th Street near Nicholas in North Philly.

Graham was caught in August 1987 after his landlord evicted him and he nailed the door shut, claiming he would return later for his belongings. Instead, a few weeks later, neighbors reported a stench, and police found skeletons and badly decomposing bodies inside.

The "Corpse Collector," as he came to be known, confessed to strangling the women during or after sex. The rowhouse still stands on a much-improved block

Ira Einhorn's apartment. Hippie activist Einhorn killed his former girlfriend Holly Maddux in 1977 and hid her body for months in a trunk in the closet of his second-floor apartment on Race Street near 34th in West Philly.

Days before his murder trial in 1981, he fled to Europe. Authorities found him in 1997, married and living in the French countryside. He was extradited in 2001.

The stately old house where Einhorn killed Maddux now houses mostly college students in nine apartments. Residents have the usual complaints about student housing, and didn't know - or much worry - about the building's criminal past. "As long as it's close to campus," said Abe Shamasunder, 22, a recent Drexel University graduate.

Nick Ross, 21, a Drexel junior who lives on the second floor, agreed: "I would like to maybe know more, if I'm living in an apartment that had a dead body in the closet - that's sorta creepy. But not so creepy I would move."

Oregon Diner. Sure, mobster Nicodemo Scarfo stabbed a longshoreman to death at the diner at 3rd Street and Oregon Avenue in 1963. But that's peanuts compared to its ancient history: It was the scene of Philly's first mass murder.

Before the diner was built, the Dearing family ran a cattle farm there, according to newspaper accounts from the time. In 1865, Christopher Dearing fired his do-nothing farmhand Anton Probst, a German immigrant and Union Army deserter. Probst spent a few months plotting his revenge and in April 1866, used an ax to kill Dearing, his wife, four of his children, a family friend and another farmhand.

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