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Two men charged with strangling elderly Philadelphia couple

(Reuters) - Two men have been charged with strangling to death an elderly couple at their Philadelphia home after being hired to do work around the house, police said on Monday.

Terry Ballard, 26, and Justen Smith, 19, were charged with two counts of murder, burglary, robbery and criminal conspiracy, the Philadelphia Police Department said.

Early on Thursday morning, officers responded to a call from the daughter of Gladys Perry, 66, and Rufus Perry, 79, who phoned police screaming after she found her parents' unconscious bodies in the house. The couple was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

Hours earlier the Perrys had hired Ballard, who was a family friend, and Smith to do odd jobs around the house.

Gladys Perry confronted Ballard for attempting to steal money when he strangled her, and her husband was strangled and smothered under a pillow while trying to save her, homicide detective unit Captain James Clark said at a news conference, according to local media.

Clark said the two men took the job intending to rob the couple, and both admitted to the crime when questioned by police, according to local media.

Ballard and Smith ultimately made off with just $120 and a gold necklace, police said.

It was unclear whether the two had attorneys, or when their initial court date would be set.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in New York; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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