Memorial for Nicole Piacentini, victim of the ‘Kensington Strangler’, corner of Jasper and Cumberland Street, 2013.
During the winter of 2010, three women were found raped and strangled to death in Kensington, Philadelphia. The local media dubbed the suspect the ‘Kensington Strangler.’ Within days, Antonio Rodriguez, 21, was taken into custody after someone phoned in a tip. In 2012, Rodriguez was convicted on all accounts and sentenced to 3 life terms in prison. Three years after her death, Nicole’s memorial remained in place.
Part 1 of 2
JS: So, where are we right now?
Carol: Kensington and Cambria. It’s…a rainy night. Actually it’s pouring out and um, everybody’s awful wet. Came out of nowhere. Not many people are on the road, lot of people are walking and running for cover.
JS: What brings you to the corner today?
Carol: Working, trying to get money to support my habit.
JS: How long have you been using?
Carol: On and off for twenty-one years.
JS: When did you first come to Kensington avenue?
Carol: At the age of twenty. And now I’m forty one.
JS: And what brought you here?
Carol: Um, well I had gotten an inheritance and I spent it all, after I bought a house. And um, I self-medicate. That’s how I started using, I wanted anything, I did anything to take me outside of myself, you know. And Heroin was one of the things that I… that made me not feel anymore. So, and it became…it became, you know, the love of my life. You know, I…before I knew you got physically ill from it, you know, when I didn’t have it, you know when you don’t have it you get physically ill. So when I, you know, when I didn’t have it, I had to do anything within my means and powers to get it, so I didn’t feel that sickness. So all I did was make my problems worse. You know, um, it just got…viciously terrible; I mean, cold, sick, tired, hungry, know what I mean? Um…really nothing I would suggest to my worst enemy. I thought the problems were gone but after I wasn’t high anymore the problems were worse. You know, I became…Terrible. I became homeless, you know, over it. And everything else. It’s like, I lost anything I ever loved or cared about in life. You know, so that wasn’t really good for me because, you know, I figured I don’t have nothing to get clean for. What am I…you know? Knowing I can accumulate things back in my life if I do become clean. Yesterday I went… [Car horn]. Yesterday I went to a program down at twenty-first and Washington in South Philly and did intake to try and get on the program so I don’t have to stick needles in my arms or my neck anymore. You know, um, cos this ain’t no lifestyle for anybody, let alone a forty-one year old woman.
Part 2 of 2
Carol: …You know, vice has gotten me, which is they call the hooker patrol [laughs]
JS: Oh yeah?
Carol: Yeah, I’ve been locked up by them, you know uh, just locked up because of drugs period, you know what I mean? Selling em…you know. But uh, I became my best customer, without money [laughs]. Having the dealer…But um, yeah, that didn’t work– I had a direct sales to an undercover cop, got a five-to-ten on a plea bargain, first offense, you know…most of my life, you know…most of my adulthood I’ve been in and out of prison.
JS: Five to ten, you got?
Carol: Yeah, first offense. It was a plea bargain.
JS: Wow. And how long did you, uh…
Carol: I did five.
JS: You did five.
Carol: Yeah, walked off five. You know, it’s just wild, you know, and I turn back to it knowing that the pain and suffering that I…that I endured from it, you know? You know, I’ve aged so…when people say, “no, dope preserved you”…Dope didn’t preserve me; they would, like, never believe I was forty-one. Yeah, I do, and I feel older than that, believe me when I tell you like, it’s not a game, you know. You’re playing Russian Roulette, but the gun is loaded; there’s not only one bullet in there. Put myself in some unsafe conditions and predicaments. Even after what happened to me at the age of twenty…I mean, at the age of twelve, I’m sorry– When I was raped, at gunpoint, and beaten with the gun, and both my arms were broke. You know, um, I watched my mom being beat, you know, all my childhood when she was with my real father, well, I call him the sperm donor cause he was never a real father or a dad, you know, or a husband to my mother, um…You know, I come from a great family; they’re retired police officers now, and my cousins and all are cops right now, and uh…
JS: Do they offer any support?
Carol: My mom and my stepfather are very huge supporters in my life. Like, I just saw my stepfather. Today he brought me twenty dollars, you know, my mom will send him down with money knowing it was for me to…you know, so I’m not sick. Cos she knows I’m sickly anyway, you know, and the pain is just twice as bad. Cos, knowing that I’m sick I won’t get to the doctor, you know, and I haven’t been back to the cancer doctor or the liver specialist; I’m not receiving any kind of treatment for it, cos that’s what I do: I run scared; I self medicate, like I told you, you know? And um, they say why have one foot in yesterday and one foot in tomorrow; you’re gonna wind up pissing on today and that’s what I do: I piss on today. Cos I dwell on what happened yesterday or the day before that, and I worry about what’s gonna happen tomorrow. And it’s not…and it’s not here, you know? And I look at it like, if it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck. It could be raining, pardon my French, dicks and I’d get hit in the head with a pussy. [Laughs]. It’s the truth! That’s how bad I have of luck. Like, you know, I’ve been left for dead by my boyfriends, you know, or like, the people I’ve spent seven, eight hundred dollars with, took em off the street, bought a hotel, rest up, fed them, clothed them from head to toe, you know, including a hat and earrings, you know, sneakers and everything…and like, these people just…don’t care. They’re…they’re vicious. And I go back for more. And it’s like I have a sign: “Idiots enquire within”. Cos I’ll help you. And people, a couple people were saying that people were going around asking for me because they know I make money, and I always got, I’m not…I try never to be sick. You know, I can hold onto my stuff, so they’re always asking, “Where’s Carol at?” And they’ll be like, “Why? What’s the matter?” “Oh no, I just wanna get high.” Not, not, “I’m worried about her, haven’t seen her in a few days”, nothing. You know, they just care…they look at me, it’s a dollar sign, free get-high, and, you know, like I said, I’ve OD’d a few times, and they’ve pushed me in a sticky bush and left me there for dead. You know, that’s how much they cared. But they tell me, “Oh, I love you.” You don’t love me. You love what I can do for you. That’s it, for real. And I know that, and I still go back for more. Cos I’m that kind, caring, mothering, nurturing person.