In Camden homicide, an early clue is finally backed up by witnesses

In this 2012 photo, Investigator Michael Dougherty walks by a memorial created near the site where Dontae Perkins’ body was found in Camden. ( Charles Fox / Staff Photographer, file )

The black orthopedic boot found near the body of Dontae Perkins, Camden's 64th homicide victim of 2012, was a tantalizing piece of the crime narrative. The victim, shot multiple times, had both his shoes on.

The boot quickly became an important clue. An officer who had responded to another shooting just days before Perkins, 25, was killed on Dec. 5 remembered seeing it being worn by the victim in the earlier incident, William Davis, 24. Davis had been shot in a foot.

But witnesses to the Perkins homicide were scarce and it would take authorities a year and a half to fit the crime to the suspect. Davis was charged with murder Wednesday and arrested Friday, authorities said.

On Monday, wearing an orange jumpsuit and white canvas sneakers, Davis entered a Camden County courtroom, just over a year and a half since the slaying in which he is implicated. He walked with no noticeable limp from the wound that had put his foot in the boot.

He "had been wearing that boot a couple of days before" the slaying, said Jason Laughlin, spokesman for the county Prosecutor's Office.

The investigation was slowed by the hesitation of residents of Grand Avenue, where Perkins was killed, as a story in The Inquirer described. No one was talking to police about what they had seen or might know.

Detective Mike Dougherty would visit the neighborhood a couple of times a week, hoping someone would talk, the article noted.

In what by early December already was the most deadly year in Camden's history - it ended with 67 homicides - neighbors weren't making things easier for detectives.

On Monday, though, the prosecution told Superior Court Judge Edward McBride of three witnesses who it said had finally spoken up.

Davis, his hair in dreadlocks, stood staring at the floor as a prosecutor read from the statement of probable cause. According to the document, one witness described Davis as being angry that night, another said Davis had a fight with Perkins, and a third claimed to see Davis shoot Perkins.

Assistant Prosecutor Howard Gilfert also said that Davis spent three years in prison prior to the 2012 slaying, and that he had two bench warrants on drug-related charges at the time of his arrest Friday in Maple Shade by U.S. marshals.

Members of Perkins' family declined to comment. Davis' attorney did not respond to phone calls seeking comment. Davis' bail was set at $1.5 million cash.

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