PHILADELPHIA, PATHIS IS WHAT it means to live in some neighborhoods in North Philly:

Cops go into an abandoned house and find a man's body, his internal organs cut out and missing.

The heart, the liver, one lung — even the ribs and breastbone — gone.

And neighbors stand behind the police tape and shake their heads and say, Yeah, well, we're not surprised.

"When you live in the ghetto," explains Christina Mason, "anything that happens is just something else."

For 30 years, Mason lived on tiny Darien Street near Jefferson, her rowhouse overlooking the back of the 8th Street house where the gutted body was found yesterday afternoon.

The body was sliced from the base of the neck to the stomach.

And though investigators were trying to figure out whether the man died in the house or was dumped there, Mason says it wouldn't surprise her either way.

"It's dark back here," she says. "The cops rarely patrol back here," she says.

There are few houses left on Darien. It's mostly vacant lots.

"You can go in and out, in and out and no one can see you," says Mason. 'They can do whatever they want, no problem with law and order. If law and order comes, there's easy access out."

"It was a pretty gruesome sight," said Homicide Capt. Charles Bloom.

Mason, 52, left a year ago, "chased away" by all troubles in the neighborhood. Particularly the falling-down, abandoned houses across her street, the houses with the squatters and heroin addicts and now this body with its internal organs cut out.

"It's dark back here," she says again. "To someone who wants to do bad things, this place is a palace."

"Who's going to find out?" she asks. "Better yet, who cares?"

Police were called to the house about 2:30 p.m. by a man who found the body while searching for junk metal in the house. At first, cops thought the corpse might be a homeless man, or maybe even the victim of a drug overdose.

Neither would have been unusual for that neighborhood.

But then the body, which had been face down, was turned over.

"It was a pretty gruesome sight," said Homicide Capt. Charles Bloom. "I've seen enough after all the years in this business, but this did it."

Cops say hospitals would never deal with body parts coming in off the street.

The body was sliced from the base of the neck to the stomach.

A rope or something like it was around the man's neck, sources said.

Investigators were trying to learn the man's identity. He had been wearing a sweatshirt, fatigue jacket, jeans and sneakers — also not unusual for that neighborhood.

They were also trying to find out whether he had died in the house, or was dumped there. There wasn't much blood in the room where the body was found, or any sign of the missing organs, sources said.

Bloom wondered, "Is there a market for this?"

Police were waiting for an autopsy to determine the cause of death. And they were also hoping for answers to other questions, such as whether the man was alive when he was cut, or whether the organs were taken out later.

"This could be abuse of a corpse, not necessarily a homicide," said Capt. Charles Bloom.

The man apparently was in his 30s, and had been dead 24 to 48 hours.

Bloom said that perhaps "there's a really sick person out there who wants to keep somebody's internal organs." Or, he wondered, "Is there a market for this?"

Police say hospitals would never deal with someone coming in off the street trying to sell body parts. Police say a cadaver dog was brought to the scene last night in an effort to determine whether any of the body parts were in or around the abandoned house.


In the days that followed, local papers reported that police had identified the victim as 60-year-old Willie J. "Pete" Kent, a homeless former meat packer who last worked odd jobs at a corner market.

Police were also examining the January murder of a 64-year-old homeless woman to see whether it could be linked to Kent's death. Alva Figueroa's body was found Jan. 28 in a camper in the rear of a vacant building just four blocks from the building where Kent's body was found.

Figueroa had been stabbed in the neck. Investigators said Kent's frozen body also bore a slash wound on the throat and they suspect Kent died elsewhere before being brought to his resting place, but formal reports from the medical examiner on the exact cause of death — if possible to determine — were weeks away.

Also, it was reported that the "grisly handiwork" perpetrated on Kent's body was not the work of someone trained in medicine, but actually quite crudely done, contradicting several earlier reports that the evisceration had been performed with "surgical skill". In any case, transplant specialists stated flatly that Kent's organs would have "no medical value".