Girl, 14, Charged With Murder After Death of Philly Military Veteran Animal Rescuer

November 11, 2019 Updated: November 11, 2019

A 14-year-old girl has been charged with the murder of a well-known animal rescuer inside his Northeast Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Ajahnae Smaugh has been charged with killing Albert Chernoff, 59, with a blunt weapon late on Monday, Nov. 4 at his home in the 8400 block of Algon Avenue in Rhawnhurst.

Chernoff, a military veteran, was found dead in his home in the early hours of Tuesday by police who were alerted by a neighbor.

The neighbor allegedly found Chernoff tied to a bed with a massive head wound and several slashing injuries on his chest, the publication reports.

Police previously released surveillance footage which shows a teenager casually walking through the living room of the house where the incident took place.

In the footage, the teen can be seen making their way into the kitchen to wash their hands before looking inside the refrigerator and freezer and then leaving the home.

Officials did not specify what gender the teen was but said they were wearing a “black jacket, a long-sleeve pink top, loose-fitting red sweatpants, and white athletic shoes, and carrying a black backpack”.

Smaugh was reportedly charged with tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice, and possession of an instrument of crime, after surrendering to police on Thursday.

Officials have not yet confirmed if the teenager seen in the video surveillance is indeed Smaugh and the connection between her and Chernoff is unclear at this time.

Acting Philadelphia Police Commissioner Christine Coulter told CBS3 that family members arranged for a lawyer to turn the girl in after they identified her in the surveillance video.

“It’s extremely troubling, it was a brutal murder and to think that there was anybody doing this but a child, but then you have to look to why did this happen and that’s what the investigators are going to try to find out,” Coulter said.

Chernoff went by the nickname “Alley Cat” in reference to his one-man cat rescue operation which was featured on National Geographic’s show, “Rescue Ink.”

A GoFundMe page set up to raise money for the cost of Chernoff’s funeral describes him as a dedicated city servant and armed forces veteran.

A post on the page from his cousin says he was “a devout vegetarian who spent his life rescuing animals of every kind from snakes and frogs to dogs and most especially cats.”

“In his spare time, he enjoyed riding his Harley Davidson motorcycles and building cat shelters for the feral cats near the Philadelphia airport. He did not have any immediate family. His sister died in her infancy before he was born. And although he’s divorced, he never had any children,” it adds.

The Animal Care and Control Team of Philadelphia also paid tribute to Chernoff in a touching Facebook post.

“Words escape me at times like this. The animal rescue community, and especially the cat community has lost an amazing man. He was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met and he would do anything for anyone. You are already missed and there is a hole in the heart of every cat rescuer that will never be filled.

“Rest in Peace Al Chernoff. May you be surrounded by your feline friends at the rainbow bridge and may you find peace,” it said.

Chernoff is survived by his first cousins and their families as well as his cats, which have since been re-homed or placed with foster owners.

His memorial service will be held on Sunday, Nov. 24 at 11 a.m. at Goldstein’s Suburban North Funeral home in Southampton.

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