A teen arrested yesterday morning in the shooting death of a Penn State Abington senior during a botched robbery in North Philly earlier this month had been on house arrest in an unrelated drug case, but cut off his ankle bracelet.
Authorities were alerted to Jeffrey Little's status as a fugitive after the March 28 snipping of his electronically monitored bracelet, said Robert Malvestuto, chief of the city's Adult Probation and Parole Department.
County probation officials were horrified, Malvestuto said yesterday, to learn that Little then ended up accused of killing Mohan Varughese, 23, during an attempted robbery on May 9 of the victim's Kawasaki motorcycle.
"It's a horrible situation," he said. "We have a probation department where all of our people take everything seriously. This situation . . . it's just heartbreaking."
In a 10:15 a.m. raid yesterday, U.S. marshals and police SWAT officers descended on the tan-brick Hedgerow Apartments complex on 16th Street near Allegheny Avenue in North Philly and captured Little, 19.
He was hiding out in the apartment of "an acquaintance," said Jim Burke, supervisor of the Marshals' Fugitive Task Force.
Police were alerted to Little's location by an anonymous 9-1-1 caller. He was arrested without resistance. After being questioned by homicide detectives yesterday, Little was charged with murder and related offenses.
The tipster is to receive a $2,500 award offered Thursday by the U.S. marshals, Burke said.
Although Little was clasped with an ankle bracelet following his sentencing March 10 in a drug-possession case to six months' house arrest, the adult-probation department has been short on bracelets for other defendants.
Malvestuto said the department has about 900 ankle bracelets in its arsenal, all of which are being used by defendants. He said the department plans to ask the city for more bracelets, although it was unclear yesterday how many it would seek.
Dave Wasson, court administrator for the 1st Judicial District, said that defendants sentenced to house arrest generally are kept in custody until an ankle bracelet is available.
It was not immediately clear yesterday where Little had been serving his house arrest.
Police gave his address as Marvine Street near Diamond, in North Philly, about three blocks from where Varughese was gunned down, near Temple University's campus.
But a man who opened the door to a home identified as Little's and who identified himself as Little's uncle said Little "didn't live here." He said that the house belonged to Little's grandmother and that Little lived there when "he was a baby."
Malvestuto, in an email last night, also said the Marvine Street address was not the one he recalled as the home where Little had served his house arrest.
Little was known to have frequented the area, though. A 71-year-old man who lives on the block said he had seen Little in the neighborhood back and forth.
Varughese, who was just four days shy of his graduation, lived in a tidy, quiet Bustleton neighborhood off Welsh Road with his family, and commuted to Penn State Abington. A man who answered the door yesterday identified himself as Varughese's cousin, but said that the parents weren't home and that he did not feel comfortable speaking with a reporter.
On the night of May 9, Varughese had been visiting his girlfriend, who goes to Temple. He had parked his motorcycle on Camac Street near Susquehanna Avenue. As they sat on the steps of a rowhouse and talked with friends, a gunman approached and ordered Varughese to surrender the keys to his motorcycle.
Varughese pleaded, "Don't do this."
But the gunman began blasting several times, hitting Varughese in the face and chest, police said. He then fled without the bike.
Varughese died a half-hour later at Temple University Hospital.
Yesterday, a memorial of teddy bears and flowers lay on the sidewalk near where Varughese was gunned down, in an area of rundown homes and vacant grassy lots filled with stray cats
One person wrote on the lid of a baseball cap placed on top of a white stuffed animal: "It would have been selfish of us to keep one of God's most beautiful sons from him any longer."
Staff writer David Gambacorta contributed to this report.