"This man was preying on the vulnerable," NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell...

"This man was preying on the vulnerable," NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said. Credit: Craig Ruttle

A tip from an alert retired correction officer led police early Wednesday to arrest a North Carolina man they charged with carrying out three stabbing attacks on homeless people, including one homicide, officials said.

Trevon Murphy, 40, himself homeless, was arrested on one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder and two counts of assault in connection with attacks that took place in Manhattan between July 5 and 11 as the victims all slept outdoors, according to police.

Murphy was arrested after the retired officer who was walking at about 6:45 a.m. Wednesday near St. Nicholas Park and 128th Street in upper Manhattan recognized him as being the wanted suspect seen in video and still images widely circulated in the media.

The officer, who wasn’t identified by officials, called 911 and alerted two uniformed cops who took the man to the nearby 28th Precinct, NYPD commissioner Keechant Sewell said at a news conference announcing the arrest.

Murphy was still wearing the same hoodie emblazoned with the words “Innocence Project” and distinctive neon sneakers seen in the videos of the crimes distributed through the media, said Sewell.

The Innocence Project is a nonprofit group dedicated to winning exoneration for people wrongfully convicted of crimes. Police said there is no connection between the organization and Murphy. 

NYPD Assistant Chief Joseph Kenny said that Murphy had a knife in his pants pocket when arrested and that he was speaking to detectives after waiving his Miranda rights. Murphy identified himself as the person depicted on the various crime scene images released earlier, said Kenny.

Police officers began an intensified search for Murphy following three stabbing attacks on homeless people in recent days. The first attack on July 5 occurred early in the morning and involved a man sleeping on a bench by West 11 Street and the Hudson River Park walkway. The victim was stabbed once in the abdomen and later died at hospital.

In the two other attacks on July 8 and 11, the victims suffered abdominal stab wounds but survived and were in stable condition, officials noted.

Kenny said it was unclear what the motive was for the attacks.

A law enforcement official who didn't want to be identified said that Murphy said during his questioning with detectives that he believed the people he assaulted had earlier attacked him.

Murphy was on probation for a Tennessee narcotics conviction, which authorities claim he had violated.

“This suspect should not have been on our streets,” said Sewell, noting the Tennessee case and a recent assault case against Murphy accusing him of striking a sleeping roommate in a Queens shelter in the 115th Precinct. Murphy was released in April on the Queens case on his own recognizance, said Sewell, adding, “This man was preying on the vulnerable.”

Sewell said Murphy was due back in Queens court on July for the assault case. Arraignment information on the latest stabbing cases was unavailable late Wednesday.

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