The beginning stages of any investigation often are shrouded in mystery. That was particularly true in the murder of Maurice Purifie. When detectives canvassed the neighborhood, no eyewitnesses were discovered, though some people did claim to hear gunshots before sunrise. Several .25 caliber shells were found near the body, but there was little other physical evidence. Several bottles were collected near the murder scene. A bicycle was found in a Dumpster. None of it appeared to be related to the case.
The only obvious sign that something sinister had happened was the condition of the victim himself. The coroner later would find four bullet holes in Maurice's head, one in his chest, and a grazing wound on his body. There also were signs that he had been severely beaten. Evidence seemed to show that he had been shot in the chest, fell to the ground, and was then shot several times in the head. The fact that his shoes were slipped off was a telltale sign for detectives that Maurice had been robbed, with the killer looking for money in his shoes, then later turning out the pockets during his search.
That narrative seemed to fit with the first solid tip delivered to the Crime Stoppers tip line. On June 16, a caller said that Aaron Pettis, a man known to police because of drug convictions, was overheard saying he was the one who killed that 13-year-old kid because the kid owed him money.
On the night of June 14 - one night before Maurice was killed - a burglary occurred on East London Square. A witness identified Maurice as the burglar seen slipping out of the window. The residence belonged to Tare Lake, a man who was at a local festival with Pettis when the burglary occurred.
In an affidavit for a search warrant of Pettis' home, police said that the investigation seemed to indicate that Pettis and Lake were Maurice's killers. The possible motive? Retaliation for the burglary and because of the money the caller claimed that Maurice owed Pettis.
DOCUMENT | AFFIDAVIT FOR SEARCH WARRANT
There is no public record, however, that Maurice previously was questioned about the burglary. There is also no evidence that Maurice was involved in selling drugs, as the Crime Stoppers tipster indicated.
When police brought Pettis in for questioning, he demanded to be given a polygraph test, which he passed. Police released him - and the tips dried up.