- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 5, 2000

A grand jury yesterday indicted an Alexandria, Va., man in the April slaying of an 8-year-old boy who was slashed and stabbed as he played in his great-grandparents' front yard.

Gregory Devon Murphy, 29, was charged with capital murder in the April 19 killing of Kevin Shifflett, after almost six months of investigation.

Murphy, who has been in Fairfax County jail since April on an unrelated drug charge, faces the death penalty, if convicted.

In addition to the murder charge, Murphy was charged with two counts of malicious wounding in the stabbing of Christine DeCourt and an assault on Thelma Taylor, both of whom tried to stop the attack. Each of those counts carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Murphy will be arraigned at 10 a.m. today in Circuit Court at the Alexandria Courthouse. He also is set to stand trial Oct. 17 in Fairfax County on a drug charge.

Police painstakingly gathered evidence, although they ran into some trouble: There was DNA evidence linking Kevin and Murphy to a cab the killer took after the attack occurred, but no DNA evidence linking Murphy to the crime scene. Also, the composite sketch of the killer did not resemble Murphy, and witnesses could not positively identify Murphy.

The killing occurred in the 100 block of East Custis Avenue in Alexandria's Del Ray neighborhood. The attacker slashed Kevin's 80-year-old great-grandmother, Mrs. Taylor, as well as Ms. DeCourt.

Murphy lived about five blocks from the scene of the crime. He was paroled from prison on a malicious-wounding charge 12 days before Kevin was killed, sources said.

Murphy was arrested at the Homewood Suites hotel in Baileys Crossroads on April 17 after firefighters were called and found the man's room burning. He was released on bond for cocaine and misdemeanor charges.

Sources have been quoted as saying Murphy had left a note in his hotel room that mentioned, in broken English, killing white children. Murphy is black; Kevin was white.

A witness to the April 19 attack said the killer shouted about hating white people.

A federal grand jury has been investigating possible civil rights violations by Murphy, but Alexandria Commonwealth Attorney S. Randolph Sengel said yesterday U.S. Attorney Helen Fahey agreed not to bring any federal charges. The state charges carry a heavier penalty than federal charges would, Mr. Sengel said.

In July, The Washington Times reported the Justice Department was "monitoring" the case as a potential hate crime.

In 1993, Murphy was arrested for assaulting a stranger with a hammer at an Alexandria Exxon gas station. He was charged with malicious wounding, petty larceny and impeding a police investigation. The next year, he was found guilty on all three charges and sentenced to five years and nine months in prison, court documents show. Murphy ended his prison term on those charges April 7.

Alexandria Police Chief Charles E. Samarra said he is thankful to the efforts of not only his officers but also the FBI, Secret Service and other local police departments.

Chief Samarra said, however, the residents of the tightly knit Del Ray community also helped solve the case.

"I am very grateful for the work and support of the people of Del Ray and Potomac West," Chief Samarra said. "These neighbors showed us all what true community spirit is."

Police spokesman Lt. John D. Crawford said the police received cooperation from the community every time they asked for it.

"They were extremely beneficial and helpful from the outset," he said.

Loretta Trout, a distant relative and friend of the Shifflett's whose own grandson, 7-year-old Timothy Trout, was out playing with Kevin shortly before he was killed, said the indictment gives some sense of comfort to the community.

"I guess you could say it would be closure, but it's going to take a long time to heal," Mrs. Trout said.

"I had seen [Kevin] since birth he was a beautiful, very quiet child," she said.

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