PHILADELPHIA — Two men were found dead in a river Wednesday, bound and weighted down with makeshift anchors and their throats slit, in drug-related abductions and killings that authorities said may also have been gang-related. A third victim who was badly wounded also was tossed in the river but managed to swim ashore, police said.
The bodies were recovered from the Schuykill River after the surviving victim was seen wandering down a street in his underwear, his hands and feet still bound, soaked and screaming, police said. He had been stabbed multiple times.
He told police he was not anchored and stayed afloat until his abductors drove away, then swam to shore, police said.
All three men had been abducted together sometime overnight and thrown in a van in what police said was a targeted attack by five to six suspects.
“There is a drug nexus at the root of this,” police Capt. James Clark said.
The two dead men, who were not immediately identified, also suffered multiple stab wounds. Clark said they had been tortured.
“It’s one of the more barbaric murders that I’ve seen,” he said.
Police said at least one bucket was apparently used as an anchor. A roofing cement bucket was seen being brought ashore during the recovery of the bodies.
Police initially reported that the survivor said he had been robbed, and that he was alone when abducted.
At a late-afternoon briefing, however, Clark said the survivor had not been robbed, and that all three men were together when they were abducted. He said some preliminary information proved to be inaccurate, but he declined to elaborate on what led to the change in the accounts.
The surviving victim, a 23-year-old, was hospitalized in critical condition, and detectives were not immediately able to interview him, Clark said.
The dead men were found with their wrists and ankles duct taped, and with duct tape around their face, about five feet from a retaining wall along the river in five to 10 feet of water, police said.
Police would not disclose the location where the abductions occurred. They hoped to use surveillance video from that location to identify the van.
Autopsies were being conducted to determine if the two men were already dead when they were thrown in the water, as well as to confirm their identities.
The place where the men were dumped is a popular area for recreation. As the bodies were being recovered, boaters and runners passed the scene.