For almost a month, Marcas Fisher eluded a police dragnet.
Detectives fielded reports that Fisher -- suspected in the beating death of a 6-year-old boy in South Los Angeles -- was seen walking around and even riding a bike in the neighborhood.
He was always one step ahead, even after the Los Angeles Police Department sealed off an entire neighborhood. Despite the notoriety of the case, investigators believe Fisher was sheltered by friends and relatives.
But early Wednesday morning, police had caught up with Fisher, in part by following a trail of his drug use.
According to law enforcement sources, investigators managed through street contacts to determine that Fisher was buying drugs in North Las Vegas and staying in an apartment there with his girlfriend.
About 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, investigators watched as Fisher walked out of an apartment to allegedly buy drugs from someone in a car. He was wearing a disguise: A blue do-rag bandanna with fake dreadlocks that looked like the Manny Ramirez wigs sold at Dodger Stadium, according to a law enforcement source who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing.
Two hours later, he was arrested while still wearing the wig and smoking a marijuana cigarette, the source said.
"Mr. Fisher has a long history with narcotics, and that's partly what led to his capture," said LAPD Deputy Chief Charlie Beck at a news conference in Los Angeles.
Beck said suspects like Fisher present challenges because they often do not leave a trail of financial records. They do not have credit or debit cards, often don't have cars or driver's licenses or use the Internet or cellphones.
"People on the fringes like Marcas here don't have that. So you have to work on things that are markers for them," Beck said. "His marker was drug use."
Though he declined to go into detail, Beck said "modern technology" was also used to locate Fisher, as was cooperation among 25 police agencies, including the U.S. Marshals Service. Detectives are investigating whether to seek charges against anyone for harboring him.
Fisher is accused of beating and killing Dae'von Bailey on July 23. The case has outraged the community and raised questions about how social workers and medical providers dealt with his case. Social workers received several reports that Dae'von was being abused but never took him out of Fisher's home.
Dae'von, a kindergartner, told adults at his school in Lakewood that Fisher had physically abused him, punching him in the nose and the stomach, first in April and again in June. In both cases, the boy was taken to a private doctor, and social workers concluded that Dae'von's allegations either were not true or could not be substantiated, according to documents obtained by The Times.
The boy's family has been the subject of about a dozen abuse or neglect allegations since 1999.
According to newly released records from the Department of Children and Family Services, Dae'von "was found dead in his locked home after [Fisher] called a friend to say he was beating the child." The records were released after The Times requested them.
When Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics arrived, rigor mortis had set in. Authorities believe that Dae'von had been dead for at least two hours.
The report said he had multiple bruises in different stages of healing on his face, arm and head. He had multiple cuts to his chest and back and multiple small cuts to both feet and the top of both feet below the ankle.The boy's 5-year-old sister was in the home and apparently witnessed his death and was with Dae'von's body without any adults present for more than an hour, relatives said.
The brutality of the boy's death was such that one of his uncles said that even members of the gang that Fisher had been affiliated with vowed to Dae'von's grandparents that they would not help Fisher escape if he came to them.
"They said they turned their back on him. It embarrassed them, him killing a little kid he basically raised," said Katari Davis, 29, the brother of Dae'von's mother. "They said they were sorry for this, and if we ever see him, there's going to be a bad outcome for him."
The boy's mother, Tylette Davis, 28, expressed gratitude to law enforcement for apprehending the man accused of killing her son.
"I've just been thanking God all day," she said at a news conference in front of the house where Dae'von died. "I can sleep better at night now."
At the time of the boy's killing, none of Davis' six children were living with her. She said that she was dealing with "some issues" and had family members and Fisher, her ex-boyfriend, look after her children. Fisher, whose rap sheet includes property and drug crimes as well as a juvenile conviction for rape, was not Dae'von's biological father.
Fisher was arrested two days after what would have been the boy's 7th birthday. "There's so much relief" as a result of the arrest, Katari Davis said.
"His birthday was a sad day for us, because he wasn't here, and his killer had still not been brought in."
Times staff writers Garrett Therolf and Nicole Santa Cruz contributed to this report.