Six homicides in 35 hours in Philadelphia

Eula Hodge, grandmother of shooting victim Christian Massey, speaks about him in their home. Above her is a photo of Massey from his days at Marple Newtown.
Eula Hodge, grandmother of shooting victim Christian Massey, speaks about him in their home. Above her is a photo of Massey from his days at Marple Newtown. (DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer)
Posted: December 04, 2013

PHILADELPHIA At 6 feet, 2 inches tall and weighing 305 pounds, Christian Massey towered over his brother, his grandmother, and most of the neighbors on Felton Street.

But those who knew him described him as a gentle giant, a reserved boy who took his tough upbringing in stride, earning high grades and planning for college.

In foster care for most of his teenage years, Massey, 21, attended Marple Newtown High School - where he played football and basketball - and used weekend passes from his group home to visit his family in West Philadelphia.

"He was as sweet as he could be," said his grandmother Eula Hodge.

Upon graduation in 2011, he moved in with Hodge in her house on Felton Street. On Thursday, he ate Thanksgiving dinner there. On Black Friday he went shopping. An electronics enthusiast, he traded in an old pair of Beats by Dre headphones for the newest model, which retails between $200 and $450.

On Saturday evening, as Massey walked through West Philadelphia's Overbrook neighborhood to meet friends, those headphones apparently caught the eye of a would-be robber.

When Massey refused to hand them over, his assailant shot him in an alley off Lebanon Avenue. He was conscious when police found him - and was able to tell officers about the attempted robbery. But he died a half-hour later at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, police said.

Massey's slaying was one of six homicides over a 36-hour period that began Saturday morning and ended Monday morning.

Through Sunday, police had recorded 225 homicides in Philadelphia so far this year, according to statistics on the Police Department's website. At the same time last year, the death toll stood at 306.

There are no suspects in Massey's case. Police have made arrests in two other cases and are looking for suspects in three others.

Henry Blackson, 28, of Parkside, was charged with the murder of Tyree Lloyd, 19, who was stabbed on the 4000 block of Girard Avenue early Saturday.

And Paulo Figueiredo, 34, was charged with the murder of his brother Arthur, 36.

Police found the elder Figueiredo wrapped in a sheet and plastic packing material in the basement of his brother's Castor home Sunday.

Police said Monday that Arthur Figueiredo died of blunt force trauma, and that they suspect his brother killed him over an argument.

Still unsolved are the murders of Marquis Melbane, 19, found lying on the 6100 block of Walton Avenue in West Philadelphia with gunshots to the chest and head Saturday; Luis Manuel Feliciano, 19, found facedown in the road on the 900 block of East Russell Street in Harrowgate with a gunshot wound to the head on Sunday; and a still-unidentified man, 33, who was shot in the chest at Palethorp and Somerset Streets in Fairhill early Monday.

At the house on Felton Street, Massey's family gathered to grieve and plan a candlelight vigil, set to take place Monday night.

Corey Massey, 36, said his brother "had it hard being away from his family" as a child, but worked to make the best of his situation.

He said he cherished memories of time spent with his younger brother on his visits home - "Usually, I'd beat him at basketball," he said, laughing.

"The aura about him was contagious - as big as he was, he was a teddy bear," Massey said. "He never complained about nothing - even after all the stuff he went through."


awhelan@phillynews.com215-854-2961 @aubreyjwhelan

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