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Man Indicted in Death of Boy; 8-Year-Old Stabbed to Death; Kin Hurt By: Paul Bradley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, October 26, 2000

The Richmond Times-Dispatch | October 5, 2000

A GRAND JURY yesterday indicted a 29-year-old Alexandria man on a capital murder charge in the stabbing death of 8-year-old Kevin Shifflett, whose brutal slaying shook this city with its violence, randomness and youth of its victim.

Gregory D. Murphy, a felon who had been released from prison shortly before Kevin was stabbed to death, faces a possible death penalty if convicted of the capital murder charge, said Alexandria Commonwealth's Attorney S. Randolph Sengel. Already in custody in the Fairfax County jail on a probation violation, Murphy is to make his first court appearance in Alexandria today.

Murphy is also charged with two counts of malicious wounding in connection with the assault and stabbing of two people who came to Kevin's aid: Thelma Taylor, 81, Kevin's great-grandmother; and a passer-by, Christine DeCourt, 51. Each of those charges carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Sengel said prosecutors sought the capital murder charge because of Kevin's age. Virginia law allows a capital murder charge in cases where the victim is under age 14 and the alleged assailant is over 21, Sengel said.

Kevin, a third-grader at Mount Vernon Community School, was stabbed to death April 19 as he played with friends in the front yard of his great-grandparents' home in Alexandria's Del Ray neighborhood, a normally placid area of the city.

His death set off an intensive investigation, unprecedented in Alexandria in its scope, involving 30 officers working full time, following up on 1,800 tips from the public.

"This crime had a great impact on the community," said Police Chief Charles E. Samarra. "But the community rallied around each other, and they certainly helped us in every way possible."

Investigators were consistently stymied by sparse physical evidence and the inability of the two women who were also stabbed to pick a suspect out of a police lineup.

Neither Sengel nor Samarra would comment about any of the evidence in the case yesterday.

But earlier, investigators said the killer walked away from the scene and jumped into a taxi, which drove him across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge into Maryland. The man fled into the woods after being dropped off near Interstate 95. A bloody knife later was found in woods near where the man was dropped off, and DNA tests confirmed it was the murder weapon, investigators said.

A major break in the case came when a DNA sample recovered from a swab taken inside the cab matched Murphy's DNA sample, logged in the state's database of felons, according to court records. Since 1990, the state has required felons to submit blood samples for DNA profiling. Murphy served a six-year prison term on malicious wounding and other charges and was released on mandatory parole 12 days before Kevin was killed.

The focus on Murphy intensified when police recovered a note from a hotel room he had rented. The note, in misspelled words, made a reference to killing "racist white kids." Murphy was already locked up in Fairfax County because his parole bond had been revoked when he was charged with possession of cocaine. He is to stand trial on the drug charge Oct. 17.

Murphy had been working as a self-employed trash hauler, earning about $ 100 a week, according to court documents. He has a criminal record dating to 1988, when he was 17. In September 1993, he was arrested on a charge of assaulting a stranger with a hammer at an Alexandria gas station and sentenced to prison the following March. After being released in April, he lived with relatives in Del Ray, about five blocks from where Kevin was killed.

A federal grand jury also has heard evidence in the case. Because of the racial overtones, prosecutors were considering charging Murphy with a hate crime. But federal authorities deferred to Alexandria and agreed that the case should be heard in a Virginia court, Sengel said.


© 2000 The Richmond Times-Dispatch

Paul Bradley writes for the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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