The more than two-year slog of seeing a Louisiana man through trials for two Denver-area murders came to a close with a jury finding Mikhail Anthony Purpera guilty on all counts in his Englewood …
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The more than two-year slog of seeing a Louisiana man through trials for two Denver-area murders came to a close with a jury finding Mikhail Anthony Purpera guilty on all counts in his Englewood case.
The Arapahoe County District Court jury convicted Purpera of first-degree murder of Patrick Murphy, a 33-year-old Englewood man, at the end of a trial March 22. Purpera was also found guilty of first-degree felony murder, aggravated robbery and several other charges.
Purpera, 31, shot Murphy on Nov. 12, 2016, according to evidence presented by the prosecution.
The case largely relied on the account of one man in the homeless community to fill in the blanks on why Purpera allegedly killed Murphy and what he did afterward.
But prosecutors with the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office argued that the independently verifiable evidence in the case pinned the murder squarely on Purpera, who was found with Murphy’s phone, his medical card and shell casings consistent with the type of bullet found at the scene of another death.
Purpera was found guilty of second-degree murder of 54-year-old homeless man Wayland Busby, at a transient campsite along the west bank of the South Platte River just outside Englewood, in that Denver case. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole in that case in November.
The gun Purpera had when arrested was linked to some casings he had at the time, and investigators said two of his casings likely came from Purpera’s shooting of Murphy near what locals call the “duck pond,” a body of water along a walking path near South Broadway and U.S. Highway 285. The gun was also linked to the Busby crime scene, according to the investigation.
Katie Telfer, one of Purpera’s public defenders, noted that no blood was found on the gun or on Purpera’s clothes, Telfer added.
John Kellner, chief deputy district attorney, responded that Purpera may not have been close enough to Murphy to get blood on him when he fired the shots.
“Why no blood on the jacket? He wasn’t wearing it. His backpack was chock full of other clothes,” Kellner said. Purpera appeared to have been bouncing around in the Platte River homeless community at the time.
The defense had said some evidence suggested someone other than Purpera was involved in Murphy’s death.
The defense pointed to an Englewood officer’s contact with a man in an alley in the 3900 block of South Broadway, a few blocks from where Murphy's body was found. The officer found Murphy's Colorado driver's permit in that man's wallet, according to police.
The man found the ID and said he’s a “scavenger” and goes “diving” in trash receptacles, the prosecution told the jury. Purpera likely dropped it along with other documents with other people’s names on them that were found near the pond, prosecutors said.
A key witness against Purpera in the case had told police Purpera had Murphy's ID card. Purpera allegedly took Murphy's medical card and debit or credit card, according to his arrest affidavit, but the medical card has no photo on it.
Telfer argued Purpera could have obtained Murphy’s medical card and phone through bartering or trading in the circles Purpera ran in, rather than by stealing from Murphy.
The investigation was “sloppy and biased,” according to the defense, who noted the key witness was a meth addict who had been convicted of burglary and accused in menacing and drug cases. Parts of his story were not corroborated by other witnesses, Telfer said.
The case’s detective, “from the moment this investigation started, never considered anyone else” but Purpera, Telfer said.
Deputy District Attorney Michael Mauro argued that the witness knew too many details about Busby and Murphy — that the investigation confirmed — for the witness not to have had details given to him first-hand by Purpera.
The Arapahoe County jury also found Purpera guilty of possession of a controlled substance, resisting arrest, obstructing an officer, theft, possession of drug paraphernalia and unlawful use of a controlled substance. One of the two first-degree murder charges was for murder with extreme indifference to the value of human life in general.
He’s set to be sentenced on April 23.
Authorities found Murphy’s body in the pond near Broadway and Highway 285 in Englewood. Police initially searched the area in November 2016 but did not find a body due to snow and cold weather. Murphy’s body wasn't found until Feb. 11, 2017, when a pedestrian spotted it after the pond was drained for maintenance.
Louisiana officials had previously issued a warrant for Purpera's arrest for two counts of attempted murder in connection with an Aug. 22, 2016, shooting in that state.
Police arrested Purpera after a report the night of Nov. 12, 2016, about shoplifting at the Walmart at 601 Englewood Parkway.
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