Monday, December 18, 2017

Gunman Ja'Vonne Dupree Knew Victims in Quadruple Homicide, Prosecutor Says

Posted By on Mon, Dec 18, 2017 at 2:27 PM

click to enlarge Ja'vonne Dupree committed a quadruple homicide in August north St. Louis County, police say. - IMAGE VIA ST. LOUIS COUNTY POLICE
  • Image via St. Louis County Police
  • Ja'vonne Dupree committed a quadruple homicide in August north St. Louis County, police say.

A south St. Louis man accused of murdering four people in August, including a ten-year-old boy, had been friends with the family, authorities say.

Ja'Vonne Dupree, 20, had been to the Glasgow Village house in north county before the killings and knew his victims well, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch told reporters today at a news conference.

"They were certainly, at one time, friends and acquaintances," MucColloch says. "They weren't strangers. It was not a random act."



click to enlarge Terrence Dehart was killed with Patricia Steward, who had recently adopted him. - IMAGE VIA ST. LOUIS COUNTY POLICE
  • Image via St. Louis County Police
  • Terrence Dehart was killed with Patricia Steward, who had recently adopted him.

Relatives of 56-year-old Patricia Steward asked police to check on her when they couldn't reach her on August 24 and she didn't show up for work. Officers entered the house in the 10400 block of Balmoral Drive and found a gruesome scene. Steward and sons 20-year-old Joseph Corley and 10-year-old Terrence Dehart had all been shot dead, along with a family friend, 18-year-old Deandre Kelley Jr., who was visiting.

Steward had recently adopted Terrence.

Police discovered their bodies in different rooms in the house. At the time, police said the home was relatively orderly for such a gruesome crime, suggesting it may not be a random break-in. An investigator told reporters days after the shooting that the victims were likely surprised by the attack.

click to enlarge Deandre Kelley, left, was visiting friend Joseph Corley, right, when they were killed. - IMAGE VIA ST. LOUIS COUNTY POLICE
  • Image via St. Louis County Police
  • Deandre Kelley, left, was visiting friend Joseph Corley, right, when they were killed.

In August, Steward's sister-in-law begged people to come forward with information, and CrimeStoppers offered $15,000 for tips.

On Friday, after a four-month investigation, police took Dupree into custody in Columbia. Investigators had tracked him him there with the help of sources within the community, McCulloch says, adding that police were careful not to tip off Dupree once they learned where he was staying.

"We kept this as quiet as possible in order to protect everybody," McCulloch says.

Authorities say they believe they have a good idea of what happened and at least a general understanding of the motivation, but they declined to go into specifics. Robbery figures into prosecutors' theory. Dupree stole electronics from his victims before taking off in Steward's silver-colored Ford Fusion, according to court documents.

He is charged with twenty felonies, including four counts of first-degree murder, four counts of first-degree robbery and a single count of burglary. Prosecutors also charged him with tampering with evidence — he's accused of cleaning up the shell casings to make the killings harder to investigate.

Dupree was transported to the St. Louis County Justice Center and is being held without bond.
click to enlarge St. Louis Country Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch and county police Chief Jon Belmar discuss the case. - PHOTO BY DOYLE MURPHY
  • PHOTO BY DOYLE MURPHY
  • St. Louis Country Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch and county police Chief Jon Belmar discuss the case.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at doyle.murphy@riverfronttimes.com or follow on Twitter at @DoyleMurphy.

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