PURE EVIL. A New Jersey man who pleaded guilty to murdering five teens ended the saga in one of the Garden State's oldest active cold cases. Philander Hampton, of Jersey City, told cops he and his cousin, Lee Evans, lured the teens to a ramshackle area of Newark and into an abandoned house with the promise of jobs--then they locked them inside and set the firetrap ablaze. The murders were supposedly triggered by stolen drugs. Evans goes on trial this fall.
Melvin Pittman, Ernest Taylor, Alvin Turner, Randy Johnson and Michael McDowell were last seen on a busy street near a park where they had played basketball on Aug. 20, 1978.
The probe stumped detectives for years--even though the victims' families always suspected local handyman Evans was the killer. The victims--all close friends-- were last seen on a busy Newark street. Later, McDowell went home and changed, then returned to a waiting pickup truck with at least one other boy inside. That was the last confirmed sighting of any of the teens.