Shortly before daybreak on June 15, 1998, two men were driving home from work and cut down Horace Street, near Robinson Junior High in the central city. The driver slammed on the brakes when the men saw a body lying in the middle of the street.
When responders found Maurice Purifie, they believed that he had been dead for several hours, a victim of a hit-and-run driver.
But when they turned him over, they found small bullet holes in his head.
It was a high-profile killing. For days, it was all anyone talked about in the neighborhood. New rumors surfaced every day – gang initiation, drug deal gone bad, payback for a burglary, retaliation for a fight over a basketball game.
Callers to Crime Stoppers identified several suspects, but detectives ruled out all of those suspects, including Aaron Pettis and Tare Lake, whose home allegedly was burglarized by Maurice.
But in August 1998, detectives got a break when a woman identifying herself as Shondrea Rayford said that her boyfriend, Travis Slaughter, confessed to her that he killed Maurice over a drug debt.
Police brought Slaughter to Scott Park substation and grilled him for more than six hours. He finally broke and said he was with Braddy and Willis and that Willis killed the boy.
He offered similar testimony on the stand in January 2000, and on Jan. 7, a jury convicted Willis and Braddy of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery. They received 23 years to life in prison.
Willis erupted in court, screaming, “For something I didn’t do? For something I didn’t do?”
Slaughter’s deal with prosecutors, in exchange for his testimony, allowed him to be released about three years ago.