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Transient's shoplifting arrest leads to charges in 2 November Denver-area murders

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Posted at 12:17 PM, May 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-24 19:44:39-04

DENVER – A transient who already had active attempted murder warrants out of Louisiana now faces charges for two murders that happened in the Denver metro area over the span of two weeks in November.

Mikhail Anthony Purpera, 29, is now accused of murdering Patrick Murphy, a 33-year-old Englewood man, whose body was found in an Englewood pond behind the Safeway on Feb. 11.

Purpera had already been charged with murdering 54-year-old Wayland Busby on Nov. 5 of last year, but months of detective work and an incident in which Purpera was caught stealing has now led to police linking him as the killer in both cases.

Busby, who was also a transient, was found shot to death on the morning of Nov. 5 last year by a Denver park ranger patrolling along the South Platte River.

Englewood police catch shoplifting suspect, and unwittingly, alleged murderer

Denver police had already started looking at Purpera as the suspect in Busby’s murder when on Nov. 11, an Englewood officer chased down a man suspected of stealing shoes from a Walmart nearby.

The suspect, later identified as Purpera, tried to get away on a bike, but was caught.

He fought with the officers, according to an affidavit for his arrest, and exchanged several blows with them. At one point, according to the affidavit, he tried to reach for a gun in his waistband, at which point officers deployed three TASER strikes, corralling him.

Officers found meth and marijuana on him, along with several photocopied IDs from various people, including Murphy, cell phones and other official documents.

They also discovered that Purpera had an active warrant out of Gonzales, Louisiana for two counts of attempted murder.

At the time, Englewood police investigated him for meth possession, possession of weapons by a previous offender, resisting arrest, theft and drug paraphernalia possession. The officer who wrote the affidavit noted that Purpera was “also wanted in the city of Denver, as a suspect in further homicides.”

As it turns out, Purpera had allegedly murdered Murphy near the pond earlier that day, though police would not make the connection until months later.

Purpera was held without bond in Arapahoe County because of his warrants out of Louisiana, which had been issued in August 2016. But while he was in jail, people he knew from the streets started talking to police, telling them Purpera murdered Busby after an argument involving drugs and that he had also killed another man near the Englewood duck pond—things Purpera was telling his acquaintances, according to the affidavits.

Purpera allegedly showed multiple people several shell casings he said were “trophies” from the murders, and threatened one man he told about the Busby murder that he’d kill the man if “anything comes out.”

But Purpera showed another man another “trophy,” telling him he had “a present” for him.

According to the affidavit, Purpera pulled a bloody baseball cap from a backpack and handed it to the acquaintance, telling him: “I shot somebody else” and that he had “killed him for no reason.”

Purpera also allegedly showed his acquaintance the man’s ID he said he had killed, which the acquaintance later confirmed to police was that of Murphy.

He had also told the acquaintance at the time that he was looking for a new pair of shoes, as his had blood on them. He allegedly shoplifted the shoes from Walmart later that day.

Second murder is linked to Purpera

In the meantime, nobody actually knew that Murphy was dead.

He lived with his father in Englewood, but was known to disappear for periods of time. His own family said he was an alcoholic.

But his father reported him missing on Dec. 12 last year nonetheless, telling police that it was curious that his son’s car, electric razor and toothbrush were still at the home, and that he had called his son’s phone at one point, and heard another man pick up the phone, say, “Yo,” then hang up.

By that point, Purpera had already been officially charged with first-degree murder and aggravated robbery in Busby’s death.

Then, on Feb. 11, a teenager walking by the duck pond, near S. Broadway and Highway 285 in Englewood, saw a man’s body lying face-down in the pond, which was in the process of being drained, as it is every couple of years to remove sediment, the affidavit says.

Officers recovered the body, and the coroner confirmed that it was that of Murphy. He was killed by a gunshot wound to the head.

Police went back and reviewed their interviews with Purpera’s acquaintances and the documents and phones discovered on Purpera when he was arrested for shoplifting.

They realized that at least one of the documents and one of the cell phones found on Purpera that day in November belonged to Murphy. Another acquaintance told police that another man had said he helped Purpera dump Murphy’s body in the pond.

The Englewood officer signed the affidavit for Murphy’s murder on March 22, and official charges against Purpera were filed May 19.

He faces first-degree murder, aggravated robbery, possession of a weapon by a previous offender, possession of a controlled substance, resisting arrest, obstructing a peace officer, possession of drug paraphernalia and theft charges out of Englewood for the case.

He is currently being held at the Denver County Jail on the murder charge out of Denver.