- The Washington Times - Monday, June 5, 2000

Country music superstar Martina McBride rocked the Birchmere in Alexandria, Va., last night in a private concert to raise money to help find the killer of Kevin Shifflett, the 8-year-old boy stabbed to death in April.

Miss McBride's show which sold out almost immediately even though the 500 buyers of $200 tickets didn't know who the star attraction would be generated $100,000.

Of that, $40,000 is for a memorial and scholarship fund in Kevin's name, and $60,000 goes to the reward, which is now capped at $100,000.

"We're trying to help the family and the community heal from this," said Gary Jackson, the Birchmere's production coordinator who got his friend, Miss McBride, to play.

Kevin's parents attended the show and, through a friend, said they were grateful for the community's support.

The concert, attended by residents and business owners from Alexandria, was the latest example of how the Del Ray community has come together after Kevin's slaying.

Kevin was killed as he played in his great-grandparents' front yard in the city's Del Ray neighborhood April 19. The attacker wounded Kevin's great-grandmother and a female passer-by.

His third-grade teacher at Mount Vernon Community School said last night she was "absolutely touched" by the "tremendous outpouring of support."

Ruth Brannigan was holding back tears when she talked about what Kevin's former classmates have been through the past few months.

"They've all just banded together and supported each other," Ms. Brannigan said of her tight-knit third-grade class.

A giant banner donated by two local businesses was reworked with the new reward amount and posted for the first time at the Birchmere last night. Police plan to erect the banner in Prince George's County, where the killer was last seen on the day of the slaying.

DNA tests on a knife found in Prince George's County confirmed that it was the weapon used to kill Kevin, said Alexandria police officials.

The knife was found east of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge on May 2 by a highway worker.

The killer apparently walked calmly east on Custis Avenue toward Mount Vernon Avenue after the stabbing. He then got in a cab and ordered the driver to stop on the first exit ramp on the Maryland side of the Wilson Bridge. He got out and disappeared into the woods leading toward the Potomac River, police said.

Miss McBride, a mother of two daughters, understood how terrible the Shiffletts felt and wanted to to help, Mr. Jackson said.

So the 1999 Female Country Vocalist of the Year agreed to the concert, but her identity had to remain secret until last night because of contractual obligations, said Mr. Jackson. Earlier in the day she performed at FedEx Field in Landover with George Strait.

For Mr. Jackson, the tragedy of Kevin's slaying "hit close to home."

Mr. Jackson's wife teaches at Mount Vernon and the Shiffletts were their neighbors.

"This all happened so suddenly and so fast, but maybe we can get this guy who did it off the street and keep it from happening to someone else," he said.

Earlier at the Birchmere yesterday, several performers put on a children's show. Folk singer Tom Paxton, Grammy Award-winning puppet show Dinorock, the Kennedy's and Billy B entertained children and their families.

In addition to the money raised through ticket sales, organizers were auctioning off more than $23,000 worth of donated items, including a cruise for 80 persons on the Potomac River and tickets to Baltimore Orioles games.

Alexandria Vice Mayor Bill Euille, who lives four blocks from where Kevin died, said it's important that so many people are behind the effort to catch the killer.

"This one unfortunate incident has created the opportunity for all the citizens of Alexandria to come together and show our support" for the Shiffletts, he said last night.

Tim Geary, president of Clarke & Sampson insurance company in Alexandria, said he bought 10 tickets to the concert for relatives and employees and sold another 80 to friends and customers.

He said the event helps a frustrated community feel it is making a difference in solving the crime.

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