Murder of sex workers Ruby Ellis and Cheryl Hanible by Rudolph Churchill: Homicide City investigates

Mugshot of Rudolph Churchill
Rudolph Churchill was charged with the murders of Ruby Ellis and Cheryl Hanible 25 years after he strangled them. Pic credit: Philadelphia Police Dept.

Homicide City continues with another brutal case from the mean streets of Philadelphia. This time they are investigating the brutal murders of Ruby Ellis and Cheryl Hanible, who were raped and strangled in 1989.

Their killer, Rudolph Churchill thought he had escaped justice; however, it’s very difficult to outrun DNA evidence and a determined police force.

In northern Philadelphia in March 1989, the body of 19-year-old Ruby Ellis was found in an abandoned car; she had been raped and strangled.

A month later, the decomposing remains of 33-year-old Cheryl Hanible were discovered in a burnt-out bar in a nearby area of the city; she had suffered the same fate as Ruby. Both of the women had been sex workers and were suffering from drug addiction.

The case lay cold for approximately a quarter of a century until DNA evidence finally caught up to Rudolph Churchill. In 2007, Churchill was released from prison in DeKalb County, Georgia, where he had just served a three year stretch for burglary, but before he left, the authorities took a sample of his DNA.

His DNA was then sent to the FBI national database. However, it took another six years before the FBI determined that the DNA matched that recovered from the Ellis and Hanible crime scenes. Churchill was located living in New Jersey and was arrested.

His DNA was found on a bloody paper towel found in the vehicle with Ellis’s body, and on the heel of Hanible’s left sneaker.

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DNA was Rudolph Churchill’s undoing

While Churchill was in custody awaiting trial, he confessed to a fellow inmate, who subsequently testified against him. Richard Simmons told the court that Churchill said he would have got away with murder had he not agreed to give up his DNA.

Churchill later admitted to the cops that he had gone to have sex with Ellis, but she had attempted to leave when she discovered he had no money. He told the officers that she had scratched him.

He remained silent when questioned about Hanible apart from uttering, “I took her to the spot.”

In May 2016, Churchill was convicted on two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Churchill maintained his innocence and told the court at his sentencing that he was raised a “gentleman.”

More from Homicide City

Follow the links to read about more murders profiled on Homicide City on ID.

In another cold case from Philadelphia, Rafael Crespo raped and murdered 17-year-old schoolgirl Anjeanette Maldonado and left her in an abandoned house. After DNA evidence caught up to Crespo 16 years later, he admitted to choking her but denied killing her. The police refused to believe his lies.

Miguel Alvarez was jealous of his cousin’s relationship with Philadelphia DJ Alberto Martino, so he enlisted the help of his cousin Roberto Alvarez to kill Martino. The pair attacked Martino on the street, violently beating him before shooting him dead.

Homicide City airs at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.

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