- The Washington Times - Friday, July 28, 2000

Alexandria, Va., police Thursday said they are "moving a lot closer" in charging Gregory Devon Murphy in the stabbing death of 8-year-old Kevin Shifflett in front of his great-grandparents' home three months ago.

Investigators drew a vial of blood from Murphy, 29, early Tuesday to compare DNA evidence, including Kevin's blood, that was found in a cab Kevin's killer used to flee after the April 19 stabbing, according to an affidavit for a search warrant filed in Fairfax County Circuit Court.

Murphy is being held in the Fairfax County detention center for not obeying a firefighter's order to evacuate a burning building.

Police said Thursday they still have not labeled Murphy as a suspect in Kevin's death, adding that they will only do so when they're convinced they have enough evidence.

"Details in the affidavit would give anyone the impression that we've made progress in this case," said police spokeswoman Amy Bertsch.

The next, and most important step, is for state lab technicians to review what unnamed sources described as "a mountain of evidence" accumulated from the crime scene on East Custis Avenue and two hotel rooms where Murphy stayed before and after the killing.

So it will be a matter of weeks, not days, before any charges are filed in the case.

Kevin's mother, Tami Shifflett, is prepared to wait.

"I understand that these things take time. I think we all want justice and some sooner than others," Mrs. Shifflett said as she and her children prepared to drive off in their blue van Thursday afternoon. "I haven't been talking to anybody about this. It's just a bad time for us."

Authorities said they have "all the time in the world now" to build the strongest case possible.

It appears they will need every scrap of scientific evidence linking Murphy's hair, skin, saliva or blood to Kevin's skin, saliva or blood to clothing, books, checks or anything else found in the items Murphy left behind in the motel rooms.

The reason for so much care: the lack of eyewitness identifications, which vary greatly. Also, a computer sketch that police distributed throughout the city where potential jurors live barely resembles Murphy.

Sources said Thursday that weak identifications pose a problem that can be overcome if the physical link between killer and victim is strong.

Murphy meanwhile faces two charges in two different jurisdictions drug and failing to obey a firefighter charges in Fairfax County and a parole violation in Alexandria.

The Virginia Parole Board has not yet scheduled a hearing in Murphy's case.

According to the two-page affidavit filed this week in Fairfax, a cabdriver was sitting on Mount Vernon Avenue about 3:40 p.m. April 19, when a black man "with a large amount of blood on his clothing" got into the vehicle and ordered the driver to take him to a location across the Wilson Bridge into Maryland.

The driver told police that the man, who had a "large knife" on him, "ducked down in the back seat" when a police car responding to the crime scene drove past the cab. At the end of the ride, the driver told police the man gave him a $20 bill, "which appeared to be stained with blood," court documents show.

Nine days later, on April 28, police found the cab, seized it and removed portions of its interior for testing, court papers show.

About two months later, on June 23, a forensic scientist found a stain on the cab's back-seat passenger door matched Murphy's DNA profile. The same scientist found that another stain from a different part of the cab matched Kevin's DNA profile, court records show.

Investigators say in court documents they soon learned that Murphy had been released on mandatory parole from state prison April 7 12 days before Kevin's slaying after serving nearly six years for attacking a man with a hammer.

Murphy returned to live with his family at their Alexandria home, court documents show. After talking to the Murphys, police learned that his whereabouts on the afternoon when Kevin died were unaccounted for.

Murphy was arrested by Fairfax County police April 17 on charges of cocaine possession and refusing to obey a firefighter's orders to evacuate a hotel room. At the time of his arrest, police saw a "large butcher knife" among his belongings, court papers show.

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