- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2000

Police swarmed Oxon Hill Farm in Maryland with helicopters, horses and dogs yesterday searching for the killer of 8-year-old Kevin Shifflett, but the man they found was not involved in the attack.

"He did not match the composite," said Capt. Daniel Walters, a U.S. Park Police commander.

A tip by a maintenance worker prompted the search, but it was just another false alarm in a very sensitive and baffling case, one that has attracted more than 800 tips and a $50,000 reward.

In the two weeks since an unknown attacker stabbed the little boy in the front yard of his great-grandparents' Alexandria, Va., home, city authorities have been sent as far away as Maryland's Eastern Shore and Richmond to investigate possible sightings of the killer. Several men have been questioned, but no one has been arrested.

"It's going to take more work," said Amy Bertsch, an Alexandria police spokeswoman.

Police managed to track the killer to the Oxon Hill area just over the Wilson Bridge from Alexandria after a cabdriver on Friday admitted to dropping the man off on the exit ramp leading to Indian Head Highway. Investigators searched the area but found nothing but garbage.

Roberta Trout, a neighbor of Kevin's great-grandparents, said these tiny snippets of hope "must be very frustrating" for the Shiffletts.

Residents of the Del Ray community, Ms. Trout said, "want this person found so they can get this over with."

"For me personally, I'm always concerned for the safety of my children mostly," she said. "It's too close to home for my comfort."

In yesterday's incident, Capt. Walters said a National Park Service employee at Oxon Hill Farm called police about 11 a.m. to report seeing someone who matched the description of the killer.

Park Police surrounded the area where the man was sighted at the protected national park, but it was Prince George's County police who soon found him at the nearby Eastover Shopping Center on Indian Head Highway.

The man cooperated with authorities, who quickly realized he did not match the description. Alexandria police questioned the man at a Prince George's County police station and released him.

The attacker is described as a black male in his 20s, between 5 feet 7 inches and 5 feet 9 inches tall, and weighing between 150 and 170 pounds. He may have had a mustache and slight growth of beard.

On Tuesday, a highway worker reportedly recovered a knife that may have been used by the killer. Also that day, investigators questioned another possible witness. No details of that interview have been released.

Police, trying to dispel myths that the assailant is incoherent or mentally unstable, are insisting he was "functional" and "reasonably dressed and groomed."

More than 200 of the tips received have come in response to an episode of Fox TV's "America's Most Wanted" that featured Kevin's story and aired Saturday.

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