Police: 75-Year-Old Suffocated Wife, Tried To 'Cover Tracks'

Police: 75-Year-Old Suffocated Wife, Tried To 'Cover Tracks'

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PHILADELPHIA -

Philadelphia police say the 75-year-old husband charged with murdering his wife intended to kill her, first tried to pin the attack on a neighbor and then "tried to cover up his own tracks."

Capt. James Clark, of the police department's Homicide Unit, said 75-year-old husband Lou Hartdegen has been formally charged.

It was an unbelievable twist in the case, but police said during a news conference Tuesday that good detective work led the husband to confess.

"There were a lot of red flags," Clark said. "I won't get into them, but I will just say that he tried to out-slick us, and he did not."

Police responded at 2:50 a.m. Monday to a reported burglary in progress inside an apartment on the 6700 clock of Castor Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia.

Judith Hartdegen, 74, was found on her bed, and she was pronounced dead at the scene.

Her husband, who said he suffered some bruises and scratches to his face, originally told police that someone broke into the residence.

"Preliminarily, Mr. Hartdegen told the police that his neighbor had entered his apartment through a rear window, sexually assaulted and suffocated his wife, then beat him and then fled from that location," Clark said.

As the community mourned the woman killed in what was thought to be a home invasion, word came that the story actually unfolded much differently.

"Because of great detective work by some very homicide detectives – who found several discrepancies in his statement – along with that information, they went to Mr. Hartdegen, who then gave a full statement that he had made up the entire story and that he, in fact, during a domestic argument with his wife had struck her several times and he had suffocated her."

Clark declined to go into too much detail on those discrepancies, except to say that they were between the husband's statements and the way that the crime scene was laid out.

Police said the wife was not sexually assaulted, and her husband's injuries were the likely result of her attempts to fight him off.

Police say Hartdegen was known to them, but Clark declined to say if they'd been to the home before.

A 26-year-old neighbor was questioned for several hours, based on Hartdegen's statement, but that man was eventually released when "the right information came to the forefront," Clark said.

Neighbors are stunned by the turn of events. FOX 29's Dave Schratwieser will have more details in live reports on the FOX 29 News at 5 & 6.

WATCH LIVE: FOX 29 News At 5 & 6

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