Investigation Discovery’s ‘Homicide City: Last Hope’ chronicles the mind-boggling 1989 rape and murder case of two Philadelphia women, which only got a breakthrough more than two decades after the fact. On March 17, 1989, the police were called to 15th and Thompson Streets for a rape in progress, where, after they arrived, they discovered 19-year-old Ruby Ellis strangled to death. Then, more than a month later, on April 23, they found 33-year-old Cheryl Hanible’s decomposing body in a burned-out abandoned bar on the 1200 block of West Girard Avenue. Through DNA evidence collected from the crime scenes, the investigators found a positive match, identified as Rudolph Churchill, whom they arrested in 2014. Wondering where he is now? Read on to find out.
Who Is Rudolph Churchill?
Born on October 30, 1961, Rudolph Churchill is a 6 foot tall Black Philadelphia man who is now a convicted felon. Back in 1989, though, he apparently went by Rudy and was a known fixture in Philadelphia, around 27th and Thompson Streets, providing women hooked on crack cocaine with their fixes. Sometimes, Rudy even got close with them and gave them lifts in his red car or on a moped. Then, a while after Ruby and Cheryl’s murders, he moved to Georgia, where he continued his illegal ways. In 2007, when he was discharged from a prison in DeKalb County, Georgia, where he served three years for burglary, his DNA sample was taken. This was then sent to an FBI national database, which is where the Philadelphia Police Department found him in 2013, after mining old DNA samples from the rape scenes and comparing them with biological fluids.
By that time, Rudolph had moved to New Jersey and had a home in the 200 block of Huff Street in Paulsboro. However, when the investigators found him to be a match, they made contact with him, and through a search and seizure warrant, got a more recent DNA sample. After it was undoubtedly confirmed that it was Rudolph’s DNA that was on the paper towel found near Ruby Ellis’ body and on Cheryl Hanible’s sneaker, he was charged with two counts of murder and other related offenses. Rudolph was taken into custody near 12th and Fairmount streets in Philadelphia, on March 19, 2014, a little more than 25 years after the first rape and subsequent slaying. We should also mention that he was held without bail because of the heinous nature of his crimes and his uncooperative nature.
Where Is Rudolph Churchill Today?
It was two years later, in 2016, that Rudolph Churchill finally went to court for the charges against him. During his trial, the prosecutors made it clear, with the help of physical evidence, that it was Rudolph who raped and strangled Ruby and Cheryl, and then left them to die in cold blood. They got testimonies from Cheryle Dowling, Ruby’s old friend, who said that Rudolph did look like the man who gave them their drugs, and from an ex-inmate, Richard Simmons, who claimed that Rudolph admitted to the two murders. Richard revealed that he had a conversation with Rudolph while they were both in holding in April of 2014, where the latter said that he would have gotten away with killing Ruby and Cheryl if it wasn’t for DNA and new technology. He further went on to give some of the details of the crime that Rudolph had told him.
With that, in early May of 2016, the Common Pleas Court jury of eight women and four men found Rudolph Churchill guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of weapon charges involving the use of twine and shoelace for the strangulation deaths of Ruby and Cheryl respectively. He was acquitted of the rape charges because his DNA was found near the victims’ bodies and not on them. Therefore, he was sentenced to two consecutive and mandatory life terms in prison without the possibility of parole, plus five to ten years for the weapon convictions. Today, Rudolph Churchill, in his late 50s, is incarcerated at SCI Smorset, a medium-security all-male correctional facility located outside Somerset, Pennsylvania, where he will stay for the rest of his life.
Read More: How Did Ruby Ellis and Cheryl Hanible Die?