Highway Patrol officers started a hunt for Zaiee Talbert about a week ago because the 24-year-old was wanted for allegedly crashing a car with a pound of weed and an illegal handgun stashed inside after leading cops on a chase.

By the time two patrolmen tracked him down Saturday, Talbert was also a suspect in the murders of two teens in March.

A false report by Talbert's girlfriend that the rental car crashed in the first incident was stolen was the nail in the coffin for the murder suspect, police said Monday. After Highway Patrol Officer Mike Kelly ran Talbert's name in the system late last week and saw he was also wanted in the murders of Jonathan Stokley, 18, and Dexter Bowie, 17 — two cousins gunned down in a hail of AK-47 and 9 mm bullets on 9th Street near Cambria — he followed some leads with Officer Joe Carter based on the Northeast Philly address the girlfriend had provided.

Sure enough, when Carter and Kelly knocked at the woman's door, on Lansford Street off Academy Road, on Saturday, they spotted Talbert peering through an upstairs window, they said.

"He turned all the lights off in the house, and we were gonna call SWAT in, but his girlfriend came down and opened the door," Kelly told the Daily News.

Cops found the suspect hiding in a basement storage area. He was taken into custody without incident, they said.

A second suspect in the slayings, identified by cops as Christopher Lloyd Butler, 32, was already in police custody for a separate crime when he was charged in the murders last week, a police spokeswoman said.

"It took a little bit of persistence trying to tie the ends together," Kelly said of Talbert's arrest. "It was a hard fight, but it was a good catch."

A police source said Talbert was shot at 24th and Clearfield streets in North Philadelphia on April 25, but it's unclear if that shooting was related to the homicides. n

Contact Morgan Zalot at 215-854-5928 or zalotm@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @morganzalot.