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19-year-old arrested in killing of Colorado Springs woman, adult son who took him into their home

May 13, 2017 Updated: May 15, 2017 at 10:03 am
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A 19-year-old man was arrested Saturday hours after he allegedly shot and killed a woman and her adult son who had given him a place to stay and helped him find a job, friends of the victims said.

Police did not release the names of the victims, but a longtime friend identified them as Christopher Pepper, 20, and his mother, Barbara Pepper. Their bodies were found in the Bonnyville neighborhood home they reportedly shared with the suspect, Elijah Phillips, at Balboa and East La Salle streets north of Bonforte Park. Police received a report of a shooting at the home about 12:40 a.m.

El Paso County assessor's records show the home was owned by Barbara Pepper.

Police initially had put out an alert asking for the public's help in finding Phillips, warning that he should be considered armed and dangerous. His arrest was announced shortly before 11 a.m., but no details about where and how Phillips was found were released.

Elijah Phillips 

Chris Pepper and Phillips had known each other since childhood and were "thick as thieves," said Isaac Kale.

"They helped him get a job. This is how he repays them - by killing them," said Kale, 19. "It just doesn't make any sense."

Phillips was down on his luck and had moved in with the family about a week earlier, friends said.

Friends say Chris' girlfriend was in the house when it happened. She reportedly hid in a closet, where she heard a popping sound, they said.

Kale and five other friends, a few who had known Chris and Barbara for most of their lives, gathered Saturday morning down the street from the house, strung with yellow crime-scene tape. They cried and embraced alongside a slew of law enforcement and emergency response vehicles from Colorado Springs police and fire departments, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office and American Medical Response.

They recalled the mother and son as loving, kind-hearted and quick to welcome and care for newcomers in their lives.

Photo by Rachel Riley, The Gazette. 

"She was a mother to everybody she came across," Eric St. Charles, 20, said of Barbara.

Chris was working as a server at a burger restaurant and studying business at Pikes Peak Community College, where he started taking classes after he graduated from Coronado High School in 2015.

He loved electronic dance music and his fluffy calico cat, Keyabo, whose paw print is tattooed on his chest.

"He was just a wonderful human being," said Zach Tucker, who met Chris in November at a show at the Springs' Rawkus concert hall. "I was honestly hoping I would know that dude for the rest of my life."

Friends recalled his energetic and fun-loving spirit, fascination with outer space and renewable energy and ability to carry on a meaningful conversation about almost anything.

"He was his own person," Kale said. "He wanted to shape the world into a better era, a better future."

Phillips, whose stepfather was in the military, lived in Germany for several years before returning to Colorado, Kale said. He described Phillips, once a close friend, as somewhat quiet and introverted to those he didn't know.

"Whenever he was around us, he'd open up and blossom," Kale said. "It's weird to think about him now considering what he just did."

Kale last spoke to Chris on the phone on Friday night. The two had planned to hang out after Chris' shift ended at work. "Now I know why he didn't call back."

If the deaths are ruled homicides, they will be the 13th and the 14th this year in Colorado Springs. Through early May last year, there had been five homicides in the city.

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