- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 20, 2000

A knife-wielding man yesterday attacked an 8-year-old in Alexandria, Va., killing the boy and injuring his great-grandmother and a passer-by who tried to stop the random, unprovoked attack, police said.

"It's a tragic afternoon here in Alexandria," said Lt. John Crawford, a city police spokesman. "I have never heard of anything like this in my entire career."

Kevin Shifflett, 8, had been playing with several neighborhood children outside his great-grandparents' house in the 100 block of East Custis Avenue about 3:40 p.m. when a man walking down the street suddenly attacked him with a knife "for no apparent reason," Lt. Crawford said.

Kevin's 80-year-old great-grandmother ran out of the house to protect him, but the man punched her in the chest and cut her on the right arm. She was treated at Alexandria Hospital and released last night.

The 51-year-old passer-by who tried to help the boy also was stabbed. The passer-by was in serious condition last night after undergoing surgery at Washington Hospital Center.

Police did not identify either woman because they are witnesses to a crime.

After attacking the boy, who is white, the man fled east toward Mount Vernon Avenue. Police issued a lookout for the man last night, calling him "armed and dangerous."

They described him as black, 20 to 25 years old, 5 feet 9 inches tall and with a medium build. He was wearing a light brown sweater, dark blue T-shirt and dark pants.

Police last night did not know of any motive for what they called an "apparently random attack," nor whether the boy and his assailant were acquainted, or why the man singled out Kevin from the other children, Lt. Crawford said. Police were interviewing neighbors and bystanders to see whether anyone recognized him, he added.

Kevin was a second-grader at Mount Vernon Elementary School and was visiting his great-grandparents.

"Kevin was a happy, kind little boy who was very quiet and respectful in school," said Roberta Trout, whose son, Timmy, is Kevin's cousin. Mrs. Trout, 38, is a substitute teacher at Kevin's school.

Kevin's parents, who work for the city government, dropped off Kevin and his two siblings at the house yesterday morning before going to work.

Timmy Trout, 6, had been playing with Kevin and several other children until a half-hour before the slaying, when his grandfather, Ralph Trout, called him home to help plant a tree.

"That could have been my child that would have been my child," said Mrs. Trout, who lives a half block from where the attack occurred.

"I don't know what I'm going to do with my boy now," she said.

Mr. Trout said he ran over to the grandparents' house when he heard police cars driving down the street.

"The grandmother showed me her arm and didn't say anything," Mr. Trout said. "She was just in shock."

Several hours after the attack, yellow police tape still marked off the area as police continued their investigation. Police worked well into the night collecting evidence from the blood-splattered driveway where Kevin was slain.

Officers, some with police dogs, went door to door yesterday afternoon, searching for the suspect and any evidence.

Neighbors stood behind the police tape aghast at the dried blood on a gray Chevrolet Cavalier parked in the driveway next to where the children had been playing.

"It's just really, really sad," said neighbor Chris Combs, who saw Kevin and his friends playing outside an hour before the attack occurred. "Nothing like this has ever happened here before. I grew up here, and we all played here. It's a wonderful neighborhood. This is just unbelievable."

The great-grandparents' house is not far from Del Ray United Methodist Church and a preschool.

C. Potter,, a teacher at the preschool a block from the killing, said she locked the church doors after she went out to check if the playground was wet and saw police cars.

"This is a big trauma for this neighborhood," Ms. Potter, 36, said.

Alexandria Vice Mayor William Euille, a Democrat, was among those neighbors standing in the street, watching the scene in disbelief.

"This is very sad and very tragic," said Mr. Euille, who lives four blocks away. "This is not natural to have this happen in our community."

"I'm stunned," said Bill Miller, whose 9-year-old daughter attended school with the boy. "Kevin was a great little kid. How could you even imagine what could provoke an adult to slash a child? It could have been my child on my street."

Mr. Miller said he will now think twice about allowing his daughter to play outside unattended. "I'm always cautious," he said. "But I don't know now. Things have changed a little bit since this happened."

Jacqueline Richardson, tightly holding a granddaughter who attends the preschool, said she was "just shocked this happened."

"I can't believe someone did that to a small child," Mrs. Richardson said.

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