Montgomery County

Facebook aids probe of teens’ deaths

Even as two suspects sit in jail, police and prosecutors continue to investigate the shooting deaths

Even as two suspects sit in jail, police and prosecutors continue to investigate the shooting deaths of two Amsterdam teens, using old-fashioned footwork and one of the newest tools at their disposal — the online community.

“We’re following all leads, including those generated by social media,” said Montgomery County District Attorney Jed Conboy.

A Facebook page apparently belonging to the alleged shooter, 15-year-old Matt Phelps, was wiped clean after police announced the arrest of him and 16-year-old Anthony Brasmeister on Friday.

However, before they vanished, The Gazette was able to view the posts from just before and after July 9, the date the two victims were last seen.

The author of the posts appearing under Phelps’ profile cannot yet be conclusively identified, according to Conboy, but the posts suggest the life of a 15-year-old continuing as usual.

In the days following the deaths of Jonathan Dejesus, 13, and Paul Damphier, 16, both students of the Greater Amsterdam School District, posts on Phelps’ Facebook page appeared innocuous, mentioning food, music and hanging out, marks of an average teenage life.

On Thursday night at 8:30 and 9 p.m., Phelps and 16-year-old Anthony Brasmeister were arrested and charged with the two boys’ murders.

Before the arrests were announced Friday, some of Phelps’ Facebook friends apparently knew. In response to an earlier post, one post called Phelps a killer; another predicted a future in prison.

Police released little of what led them to Phelps and Brasmeister, but said a rifle believed to have been used by Phelps was found at the scene.

“We have to be very circumspect in what we say,” Conboy said. “I don’t want to sway a potential juror.”

Phelps is scheduled to appear in Florida Town Court today for a preliminary hearing. Brasmeister is scheduled to appear Friday. The court will decide if there is reasonable cause to believe that the boys, both currently in custody, did indeed commit a felony.

Within 45 days of the preliminary hearing, Conboy will bring the case to a grand jury seeking an indictment.

After that, Phelps and Brasmeister will be arraigned in County Court, plead not guilty and a roughly four-month schedule leading to trial will be set, according to Conboy.

Defense attorneys Charles Schwartz and Jeffrey Francisco, representing Phelps and Brasmeister, could not be reached for comment Monday.

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