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Suspect will face trial in duck-pond slaying

Mikhail Anthony Purpera has not yet entered a plea in the case


Last November, Mikhail Anthony Purpera allegedly shot a man twice, took his debit and health care cards, grabbed his phone and bloody hat and the shell casings, dumped his body in a duck pond and then ate at a Denny's just a block away.

Those allegations are based on interviews witnesses gave to Englewood Police Detective Brian Taylor, who gave testimony at a preliminary hearing in Arapahoe County District Court on July 11. Judge Phillip Douglass, of the 18th Judicial District, ruled that Purpera will face trial on counts of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery and will be held without bond.

Purpera, 29, is suspected of killing Englewood resident Patrick Murphy, 33. Purpera has been in custody in Denver, where he's suspected of fatally shooting a 54-year-old homeless man named Wayland Busby last November. Purpera has a warrant for his arrest out of Louisiana on two counts of attempted murder after a shooting there last Aug. 22.

Englewood police allege that after Purpera killed Murphy Nov. 12, he dumped Murphy's body in the Little Dry Creek duck pond northwest of the interchange of Broadway and U.S. Highway 285. On Nov. 18, Englewood police searched the area but did not find a body. Taylor told the court that recent snow at the time hindered the search. Murphy's body wasn't found until Feb. 11 when the pond was drained for maintenance and a pedestrian spotted the corpse.

The defense made an argument against sending Purpera's case to trial largely based on its claim that the detective's main interviewee, a 32-year-old man, was an untrustworthy source. But Douglass found the physical evidence in the case convincing enough.

Englewood police first encountered Purpera after receiving a call the night of Nov. 12 about shoplifting at the Walmart at 601 Englewood Parkway. Master Patrol Officer Ryan Kaspar spotted Purpera, whom he said fit the suspect's description, and followed him as he bicycled westbound on U.S. Highway 285 under the South Santa Fe Drive bridge.

Purpera turned and lost control of his bicycle in a dirt area near the interchange of the two roads, Kaspar told the court in testimony. After Kaspar got out of his patrol car, he wrestled Purpera to the ground, hit him three times in the face as Purpera tried to push away and stunned Purpera with a Taser. The struggle took 15-30 seconds, Kaspar said.

At that point, Officer Jacob Gerson was at the scene and had grabbed Purpera's arm. Gerson told the court he unbuttoned Purpera's pants to remove a loaded handgun, which officers said Purpera was trying to reach for during the struggle. Kaspar said Purpera did not reach for the gun before the altercation. Purpera was arrested for the alleged shoplifting and was found to be wearing new brown shoes.

According to Taylor's main interviewee, who told detectives he had been sitting at a transient campsite in the area earlier on Nov. 12, Purpera threw a blood-covered hat at interviewee that day and said it was from a person he had killed near the duck pond. The interviewee talked to Denver police on Nov. 18, and to Taylor on March 20.

Purpera called the bloody hat a "present" and said he liked "the surprised look" on the interviewee's face, according to statements the interviewee gave police.

That interviewee also said Purpera showed him two shell casings and called them "trophies," according to the interviews. Denver police found casings that were consistent with the bullets found at the Busby murder scene, a transient campsite along the west bank of the South Platte River just outside Englewood. A Denver park ranger found Busby's body Nov. 5.

The interviewee said Purpera claimed he had killed a man near the Englewood duck pond "for no reason" while the victim was drunk and yelling profanities at him.

Purpera showed the interviewee an identification card that had Murphy's picture on it, according to the police interviews. The interviewee identified Murphy when Taylor showed him a DMV photo of him in March - the interviewee said he was "100 percent sure that is the guy." He also identified Purpera in a lineup - he knew him by his first name and as "Pistol Pete."

Another interviewee, a 40-year-old man who said he knew Purpera and knew of Murphy, came up during the court arguments. That second interviewee said Murphy often bought drugs from Purpera.

The defense argued that the second interviewee claimed to have killed someone near the duck pond at some point and said that brings into question whether Purpera is the murderer.

The defense also argued that the first interviewee is an "extensive meth user" and has admitted to staying up sometimes for more than eight days straight, implying he could not be trusted.

The judge ruled the case should go to trial partly based on the first interviewee's corroboration of the role of the shoes and hat - Murphy was known to frequently wear hats - and partly on Purpera's possession of Murphy's health insurance card and a phone that police determined to be Murphy's.

Purpera reportedly was carrying a number of identification documents that weren't in his name at the time of his arrest in November.

As of May, Louisiana officials had a request that Purpera be extradited to their jurisdiction to face trial for the two counts of attempted murder.

The Arapahoe court scheduled an arraignment for Purpera for Aug. 25. He has not entered a plea in the case.


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