Makhail Purpera charged in murder of homeless man in Denver

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

A 29-year-old man is accused of shooting a homeless man to death near the South Platte River last month.

Prosecutors believe that Makhail Anthony Purpera, 29, killed Wayland Busby, 54, during a robbery attempt on Nov. 5, 2016. Busby was living in a tent near South Platte River Drive and Dartmouth Avenue at the time, according to the Denver District Attorney’s Office.

Purpera allegedly was trying to steal marijuana and other goods, according to the DA. A Denver park ranger found Busby’s body during a routine check of the area.

Later, an investigator obtained a search warrant for the camp site.

According an arrest warrant affidavit: During the investigation, one man said he had known Busby for about 18 months, having met him at a gas station near Busby’s campsite. Busby kept all his belongings in a blue backpack — mostly an old laptop, a Samsung phone, a wallet and a couple watches. Busby may have sold small amounts of marijuana, he said.

Six days after the shooting, on Nov. 12, Englewood police officers stopped a man suspected of stealing a pair of shoes from the Walmart on Englewood Parkway. He was fleeing on his bike, eventually crashing and fighting an officer who was chasing him. When he was finally detained, the police said they found him to have marijuana, suspected methamphetamine, a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson pistol and four spent bullets casings. They found the man’s name was Makhail Purpera, and he was wanted on suspicion of shooting a man in Gonzales, Louisiana.

On Nov. 17, a witness told investigators that she had overheard a man talking about shooting a homeless man twice during a robbery. She thought his name was “Michael” or “Pistol Pete.” On Nov. 18, another witness — this one a homeless man — said that he knew the perpetrator, a man he said was named “Mikhail,” and the victim, Busby. The suspect and victim had had a disagreement, after which the suspect tried to rob Busby, according to the witness. Busby woke up during the theft, the witness said, and “Mikhail” shot him dead.

“I merked that motherfucker,” the witness reportedly heard “Mikhail” say while showing off the two spent cartridges as trophies. Two witnesses said that the suspect talked about hearing the victim gurgle and choke after the shooting, while the suspect looked for things to steal.

Purpera, of Louisiana, faces charges of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery. He’s in custody in the Denver Detention Center.

He also is wanted in Gonzales, Louisiana, for two counts of attempted murder in connection with a shooting that occurred there on Aug. 22, 2016, according to the district attorney’s office.

Makhail Purpera

Makhail Purpera

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