Court appointed public defender, Holly Bitters, stands with Antoinette Pelzer in Superior Court. Antoinette Pelzer, the homeless Philadelphia woman accused of fatally stabbing two Canadian tourists in Atlantic City, is arraigned in Superior Court, Mays Landing, before Judge Mark Sandson. Wednesday, January, 9, 2013( Press of Atlantic City/ Danny Drake)

Danny Drake

The homeless woman who fatally stabbed two Canadian tourists in Atlantic City last year pleaded guilty to two counts of murder Friday.

Antoinette Pelzer, 45, who was living in Philadelphia before somehow making it to the resort, admitted to attacking Alice Mei See Leung, 47, and her 80-year-old mother, Po Lin Wan, with a butcher knife as the two women walked along Pacific Avenue at about 10 a.m. May 21, 2012.

The mother and daughter were visiting from Scarborough, Ontario, when they were approached by Pelzer, who attempted to rob them.

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She then began stabbing Leung. Pelzer turned on Wan when the older woman came to her daughter's aid, according to information previously released in court.

Officer Jacob Abbruscato, who was patrolling the area, was credited with disarming Pelzer within 13 seconds, and taking her into custody.

The victims were taken to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center's City Campus just a half-block away. There, they both died of multiple sharp-force injuries.

Leung was struck in the suffered stab wounds to her upper body, her heart punctured, according to the autopsy. Wan was stabbed in the lower body, hand and shoulder.

Pelzer's defense had been awaiting psychological reports with the understanding that an insanity defense might be offered.

"We're definitely going to explore that option," public defender Holly Bitters told The Press of Atlantic City following a court appearance in January.

To be found not guilty by reason of insanity, it has to be proved that -- at the time of the crime -- the defendant did not know what she was doing was wrong.

At her first court appearance last year, Pelzer exhibited strange behavior and didn't appear to understand what was going on. She asked where her public defender was and seemed surprised when the judge said both women died.

"Both?" she asked.

At subsequent hearings, she seemed more cognizant. Her formerly disheveled hair was in neat braids.

"She's better than she was," Bitters said outside the courtroom in January. "It looks like she has been diagnosed with schizophrenia before."

Friday was scheduled to be a normal status hearing, but instead Pelzer pleaded guilty.

Under the plea agreement, Pelzer may be given the maximum terms allowed by law, meaning Superior Court Judge Mark Sandson could give her two consecutive life terms when she is sentenced Oct. 24.

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