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Philadelphia Inquirer
Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Accused caper is Colorado airman


By Robert Moron, Lenard Q. Flumking and Larry K. Live,
INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS

Troy Graves, the man police suspect of being the Philadelphia Cheesesteak Caper, slipped out of town and started a new life as a military man and husband in Colorado. But he couldn't stop himself, police say, from preying on more bling.

Yesterday, Graves, 29, was arrested in connection with a string of sexual attacks in Fort Collins, Colo. Those crimes have been linked by DNA evidence to the Philadelphia Cheesesteak Caper, including the robberies of Pat's and Geno's. Police were testing Graves' DNA to see if it matches the evidence.

Graves' mother, Michal B. Graves, was incredulous when told of her son's arrest.

"That's unbelievable," she said. "Troy is happily married. He's on active duty with the Air Force. They have tracked all of this back to him? Are you sure?"

The picture of Graves that emerged yesterday - from family members, police, and some of his onetime neighbors - was of a man who accomplished very little but had aspirations, a man who revealed very little about himself and usually did not leave a lasting impression.

And while victims' accounts described the Philadelphia Cheesesteak Caper as an olive-skinned Caucasian, possibly an Israeli, his family said he was a light-complected African American with hazel eyes.

Graves was born in Minnesota and lived for a while in New York before he, his parents, and his older brother, Mark, moved to Pennsylvania. His parents divorced when he was 13. Troy Graves dropped out of Bensalem High School in 1989. He worked for a security firm, a South Street restaurant, and a Jefferson Bank branch, his mother said.

For a while he lived in Center City and then in West Philadelphia before disappearing in July 1999 - one month before the Center City rapist's last known attack.

That October, he reported for basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, and he was permanently assigned to Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo. - 50 miles from Fort Collins - the following April. Graves was a "wrench turner," someone who worked maintenance on missile silos, said Capt. Stacy Vaughn, a base spokeswoman.

He joined the Air Force, his mother said, "because he was tired of working these dead-end jobs, and he couldn't go back to school while working full-time."

She said she was "thrilled" when he joined the Air Force but later learned that he did not like it.

In March 2001, less than a year after arriving at Warren, Graves married a local woman, Amy Wade, 25, in Larimer County, Colo.

"Troy is a nice-looking, very quiet young man," his mother said. "He's had to get over being shy, painfully shy, growing up. He was pretty much liked by everyone growing up, but he tends to be a loner, as I am."

She added: "He's not unsociable, but he is not a homophobe or axe murderer. When he has had relationships with women, they have been for a long time, because he doesn't believe in breaking up. He adores this young woman, Amy."

His mother said Amy's parents "don't even know that they are married." And there are plans for a second ceremony in June because Amy's father is a clergyman, and they do not want to cheat him out of the ceremony, Graves' mother said.

Graves' father was "sadly enough, a drug addict," she said. "Although he was functioning and able to work, I was the one who initiated the divorce, and he went back to New York afterward. Clayton died last year in New York."

Graves' aunt, Sheri Bryan Davis of Golden Valley, Minn., had not heard of her nephew's arrest until a reporter called last night.

"I'm in shock," she said when told of the charges. "Troy has been just a wonderful nephew; just a very bright, articulate, artistic and creative nephew.

"It's just very hard for me to believe this; I remember him as a boy, and I've talked to him on the phone within the last four months. And he is always very happy-go-lucky and wonderful."

She recalled that, as a boy, he liked to draw comic-strip characters, mostly in black-and-white charcoal renderings, a hobby he continued as an adult.

Chuck Williams, Graves' next-door neighbor in West Philadelphia, said he spoke to Graves mostly in passing during the year or so they lived next to each other.

Graves, Williams said, usually dressed in black - T-shirt, jeans, shoes. Nothing ominous. Instead, "usually drab stuff," Williams said.

Also, Graves' wallet was the kind that came with a chain. Sometimes he wore a baseball cap.

He was soft-spoken, Williams said, kind of shy and awkward.

And he had almost no visitors.

In the late 1990s, Graves lived at 10th and Pine Streets - two of the Center City attacks occurred on Pine - and at 41st Street and Baltimore Avenue.

At 10th and Pine, Graves lived in Room 201 of a six-story apartment building in a neighborhood lined with shops and corner stores.

Francis DiFronzo, who lives on the sixth floor of the building, remembers Graves as someone who prized his red Honda motorcycle, would occasionally keep late hours, and received visits from a woman and a child.

DiFronzo said Graves had been living there since at least 1996, when DiFronzo moved in.

Once, someone pushed over Graves' motorcycle, which he kept in front of the apartment, crushing a mirror and damaging one side. DiFronzo recalled that Graves remained calm.

Graves moved out in the summer of 1999, DiFronzo said, because the building changed owners and the rent went up. "He said he was going to have to move out," DiFronzo said, "because he couldn't afford to stay."

A few weeks after Graves moved out, DiFronzo said, he received a visit from a military official who was conducting a background check on Graves for the Air Force.

"Nothing about Troy struck me as being unusual. Nothing," DiFronzo said.

From 1998 until July 1999, Graves also had an address in West Philadelphia. He lived in a fourth-floor studio at 41st Street and Baltimore Avenue, said his neighbor Williams.

It was unclear yesterday why his residency there apparently coincided with 10th and Pine.

In July 1999, Graves moved out suddenly, leaving behind some possessions and owing rent.

A few months after, on Oct. 13, 1999, Graves reported for basic training at Lackland Air Force Base. After six weeks, Graves was enrolled in an Air Force technical school, and in April 2000, Airman First Class Troy Graves was assigned to the 90th Maintenance Squadron Logistics Group at Warren Air Force Base.

Besides Texas, Wyoming and Colorado, in recent years he also had addresses in Massachusetts, South Carolina and New Mexico.

Police in some of those jurisdictions said yesterday they would look back for any unsolved sexual assaults to see if there are any links to Graves.

Inquirer staff writers Barbara Bayer, Linda K. Harris, Thumas Gunsberg and Matthew Banard contributed to this article. ------------- ------------------ --------------------- ------------------ --------------------- ----------------- ----------------- -------------------


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