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Reader's tip leads to fugitive accused in teen's murder

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Local,News,DC,Crime,Scott McCabe
A tip from a Washington Examiner reader led to the capture of a man police charged with the first-degree murder of a 16-year-old, but who had been released from jail by a D.C. judge.

Kendrick Phillips, 19, is the 30th fugitive arrested thanks directly to tips from readers of the newspaper's Crime & Punishment page, according to federal authorities.

U.S. Marshals said a tipster picked up a copy of Thursday's paper while riding a Metro bus. After hopping off the transit in Southeast Washington, the reader happened to see Phillips, and called 911.

Within minutes, nine D.C. police officers surrounded Phillips outside a residence in the 1200 block of Talbert Street SE.

Phillips is accused of fatally shooting 16-year-old Deonte Payton in December 2009, and leaving his body in an apartment in the Stanton Glenn Apartments in Southeast Washington. Payton was found stuffed inside a closet of a vacant apartment after neighbors complained of a foul odor.

Phillips was arrested a year later. At his bond hearing in September, D.C. Superior Court Judge Gerald I. Fisher, substituting for trial Judge Lynn Leibovitz, released Phillips and ordered him to wear an ankle-monitoring bracelet while he awaited trial. On Apri 13, Phillips cut the bracelet, police said. He hadn't been seen since until the alert reader spotted him.

"The Examiner works. I'm happy he's picked up," said U.S. Marshals Service Inspector Bob Hoffmaster, of the Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force. It was the second time Hoffmaster oversaw Phillips' capture.

Hoffmaster said the reader is eligible for a $1,000 reward.

Since the weekly "Most Wanted" feature was started nearly three years ago, readers have provided information that has led directly to the capture of convicted murderers, kidnappers, child sex offenders, rapists and scam artists.

The Examiner wasn't sure the "Most Wanted" feature would work when it started in July 2008. But after three quick arrests, it appeared the paper and its loyal readers were onto something.

One of the first people profiled was Derrick Arthur, a fugitive who escaped from police during a wild shootout by ducking into the National Arboretum during a 2005 blizzard. Arthur dragged a hostage from a hotel, used a remote control device to start his car, and jumped behind the wheel. Officers fired at the car and one officer was injured, struck by an errant bullet.

Three years later, The Examiner ran Arthur's story and photo. A reader saw his picture and alerted marshal's deputies. Arthur was swiftly recaptured.

Fugitives have been captured as far as way as New York.

Sometimes they're arrested the morning their mug shot appears in the newspaper, like in the case of convicted sex offender Andre Stevenson. Commuters reading the paper at a Southeast Washington bus stop saw Stevenson standing by a day care center, and kept him surrounded until police arrived.

Another fugitive was arrested after a reader showed a uniformed D.C. police officer the newspaper article and photo, pointed at the suspect and said, "There's your man, right there."

smccabe@washingtonexaminer.com

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