Cops: Elderly couple strangled for $120 and a gold chain

Posted: July 22, 2014

THE MYSTERIOUS deaths of an elderly couple in their home last week have been solved, police said, but the arrests of two men have only brought more confusion to the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood where the couple - and one of their alleged killers - lived.

Homicide Capt. James Clark said Rufus Perry, 79, and Algladis Perry, 66, were strangled and suffocated Wednesday by their best friend's grandson, Terry Ballard, 26, and his friend, Justen Smith, 19, at the Perrys' home on Spangler Street near Sergeant.

The Perrys had hired the men to do chores, Clark said, but when Algladis Perry caught one of them trying to steal money from their kitchen, she confronted him and was killed. When her husband tried to stop the attack, the other man killed him, police said. Clark said the men strangled their victims and suffocated them with a pillow.

Ballard and Smith came away with $120 and a gold chain, police said. They've been charged with murder, robbery and related offenses.

The Perrys' bodies were found at the base of a stairwell by one of their children about 12:52 a.m. Thursday. Because the bodies had no signs of trauma, authorities initially believed the couple could have died from carbon-monoxide poisoning, a theory that was quickly ruled out.

Yesterday, Clark said investigators' best lead in the case came from a next-door neighbor who told of seeing two young men in the back yard on the day of the slayings. When police took Ballard and Smith in for questioning, they confessed, Clark said.

Ballard, who lived with his grandmother around the corner on Huntingdon Street near 34th, had been away at college but had recently moved back, Clark said.

Less is known about Smith, who police said is from Glen Campbell, Pa., about 15 miles south of Punxsutawney.

Many neighborhood residents told the Daily News that they recognized Ballard, but not Smith.

A 51-year-old resident who declined to give her name said she knew Ballard as a "good guy" from a "good family."

"My heart goes out to the couple, their family and to Terry, because I know him - I know him but I don't have mercy for him," she said. "That could have been his grandmother."

Two men, ages 45 and 67, who also declined to give their names, said the incident had brought "a black eye" and "a scar" to their neighborhood.

The younger man described Ballard as a "character" who was "always into trouble."

"I don't want to swear, but he's a f---ing a--hole that does dumb stuff," the man said. "But that's your grandma's best friend, you got family around - how you going to do that?"

The older man said the Perrys and Ballard's grandmother were so close that "they were binded."

The younger man wondered how she was getting through this.

"She lost her best friends and now her grandson, over a senseless killing," he said. "I know she's hurting. This is bringing shame on his grandma's people."

Relatives of the Perrys who went to police headquarters yesterday politely declined to comment. A nephew of the couple is Donald Carlton, deputy commissioner of the Philadelphia Streets Department.

On Twitter: @FarFarrAway



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