PHOENIX – Police believe the search for drugs and the chance to commit robbery were behind the murder of a Valley grandfather who was shot to death while out for his nightly walk earlier this week.
When police first started investigating the murder of Milton Raffle, 78, investigators had very little to go on. Raffle had been found in Sand Lilly Park near 24th Avenue and Cactus Road shortly after midnight Wednesday.
According to Sgt. Tommy Thompson of the Phoenix Police Department, a resident came forward with a seemingly unimportant piece of information. That information turned out to be extremely important. It was those details that led detectives to the alleged killers.
The resident told police he had been the victim of a burglary several days earlier. Doing his own legwork, that person believed he knew who was responsible. In the course of the burglary, a 22-caliber pistol was stolen.
That simple tip led officers to talk to the juveniles allegedly involved in the burglary to determine who had possession of that pistol. Thompson said the parents of those kids were extremely helpful in getting them to tell the truth.
Based on the information they developed, investigators served three search warrants.
“[Detectives] were hopeful that the gun stolen in the burglary would lead them to the suspects in this crime [the shooting death of Raffle],” Thompson said.
Information led detectives to Brandon Roberts and Nadeem Alferikh, both 17 years old.
“As they interviewed the individuals, they put the pieces together on what had transpired,” Thompson said. “It appeared that those two individuals were in the park that night to purchase drugs.”
Thompson said investigators believe Roberts and Alferikh were trying to score some LSD, also known as acid. That’s when they came into contact with Raffle.
“It is our opinion, our belief, that during the course of that transaction, Mr. Raffle believed that he was being stalked by these two individuals for a robbery,” Thompson explained.
Thompson said detectives believe that when Raffle made contact with the teens, Roberts pulled out the gun that had been stolen in the earlier burglary and shot and killed him.
“They then attempted to see if they could remove items from him, however, they panicked and fled the scene, Thompson continued. “We believe that robbery was the motive for this, that in fact they probably were stalking him to be robbed. … There were admissions made by both.”
Detectives learned that the pair went to Roberts’ home and took the pistol apart and then hid it in the attic. Thompson said that weapon has been recovered. Detectives believe it was the gun used to kill Raffle.
“Our investigators still have more to go because they’re still investigating the original burglary,” Thompson said.
Officers took Roberts and Alferikh into custody Wednesday night. Detectives believe they were the only two involved in Raffle’s death even though five young people allegedly were involved in that burglary.
Roberts is facing charges of felony murder and armed robbery. Alferikh is facing charges of felony murder, armed robbery, burglary, trafficking in stolen property and possession of stolen property.
According to the felony murder rule, if a person is killed in the course of a felony such as armed robbery, the suspect can be charged with murder.
“If you decide to commit crimes and someone dies, you pay the price for that,” Thompson said.
Thompson stressed the importance of the tip from the person who reported the initial burglary but declined to release his name. “While this will never bring back Mr. Raffle, who from all indications was an upstanding member or our community …, but it means that these people will never commit this crime again,” Thompson. “That was the wish of the Raffle family.”
Thompson said investigators worked more than 24 hours straight to make all the connections and find their suspects.
It’s not clear if Roberts and Alferikh will be charged as adults. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office will make that decision. Thompson said Roberts will turn 18 in about a month, Alferikh in six months.
Thompson said detectives do not expect to make any more arrests in connection with Raffle’s murder, but more arrests and charges stemming from the burglary are likely.