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Convicted 'House of Death' killer Harrison 'Marty' Graham received...

By HAROLD H. MARTIN

PHILADELPHIA -- Convicted 'House of Death' killer Harrison 'Marty' Graham received six death sentences and one life prison term Tuesday for strangling seven women during sex in his squalid apartment.

Defense attorney Joel Moldovsky said that because the judge ordered the sentences to run consecutively, Graham would only face the electric chair if his life term was commuted.

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Graham, 28, was sentenced by Common Pleas Judge Robert A. Latrone, who last week found the former dishwasher guilty of seven counts of first-degree murder at the end of a seven-week non-jury trial.

Graham, who sat passively through most of his trial and the sentencing, leaned over after the first death sentence was passed, and told Moldovsky, 'I'll commit suicide; they'll never kill me,' according to his attorneys.

At the end of the sentencing, Graham stretched and snapped his fingers, and before being led away by sheriff's deputies, asked the attorney if he could have his 'Cookie Monster' puppet back. The puppet was one of the few items he took with him when he fled the murder scene last August about 10 days before his arrest.

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The judge denied him the hand puppet but said he could keep his glove and finger puppets that sat on the defense table during his trial.

Graham was convicted last Wednesday of strangling seven women during sex over an 11-month period after using drugs to lure the victims to his North Philadelphia apartment, later dubbed the 'House of Death' by the media.

The judge sentenced him to life in prison for the death of one victim, whose near-skeletal remains were found scattered around the apartment. Latrone said there were no proven aggravating circumstances warranting the death penalty for that murder.

Latrone then sentenced Graham to death for the six other killings, citing the life sentence he received for the first murder as an aggravating circumstance warranting capital punishment for successive murders under Pennsylvania law.

In addition, Graham received seven one-to-two year sentences for abuse of a corpse. Latrone ordered all the sentences to consecutively.

'I think the judge just pulled a Solomon,' Moldovsky, referring to the wise Biblical king who discovered the real mother of a disputed baby by threatening to cut the child in half.

Moldovsky said he believed the consecutive sentences of life in prison and death, sparing Graham from execution unless his life term is commuted, was the first such sentence passed in Pennsylvania.

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Graham was arrested Aug. 16 when police, prompted by neighbors' complaints about foul odors, found the decomposed bodies of six women stashed under mattresses and in closets in his trash-strewm apartment, known in the neighborhood as a shooting gallery for drug addicts.

Parts of a seventh body were found on the roof of his building and in an adjacent building.

Graham's mother and foster mother, who sat on the front row throughout the trial, were not in court Tuesday. Moldovsky said he could not reach them in time.

Prosecutor Roger King, who had sought the death penalty for all the murders, said afterward, 'All elements of society are protected by the judge's decision. All interests are protected.'

Latrone prefaced his sentencing by saying, 'It is not the function and purpose of the court to serve only the victims and the victims' families. You don't have to be a Solomon to understand the kind of sentence they would want.'

But he said he could not be 'a conduit or instrument of revenge.' Nor was he prepared to debate the wisdom of the death penalty, he said.

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