Cops explore 'shoe game' motive in teen slaying

by: Kerry Kavanaugh Updated:


GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - A police report indicates 14-year-old Paul Sampleton, Jr. was tied up or restrained when he was shot and killed inside his home on Haynescrest Drive in Grayson Wednesday afternoon.

Gwinnett County police said the Grayson High School freshman attended school earlier in the day.

After spending nearly three hours collecting more evidence at the home again Thursday afternoon, investigators left with bags of evidence.

Sampleton's father found him dead inside the kitchen, just beyond the garage, the police report indicates.

"I'm concerned scared. Just like any other parent would feel", neighbor Latifah Hall told Channel 2's Amy Napier Viteri. 

One neighbor, who didn't want to use her name, told Viteri she saw Sampleton's father running from the home after he made the terrible discovery.

"I looked back and he had his hands and running and lady, you know, she was saying, 'My neighbor's found his kid dead,' you know", the woman said.

Friends told Channel 2's Shae Rozzi that Sampleton collected, sold and traded expensive sneakers through Addicted to All Things Fresh, an online Atlanta-based forum specializing in limited-edition sneakers.

As an investigator left the teen's home, Rozzi tried to ask him on-camera about the investigation.

"We have some leads but that's about it," the unidentified investigator told Rozzi.

Rozzi asked whether shoes played a role in the murder.

"I can't say," the investigator responded.

Another officer with the Gwinnett County Police Department told Channel 2's Kerry Kavanaugh that "shoe gaming" is an angle they're exploring.

A local pastor stopped by the Sampleton home to offer support to the family but the family wasn't there.

"Our hearts went out as a church and as a community for this family," said the Rev. Veta Blanding, Hopewell North East Baptist Church.

Blanding says she does not know the family or whether they've ever come into her church but she wants to make sure they get the help they may need.

"I have children and we have about 500 children in our church and it just grips our heart. Especially in light of everything that's going on in our world with all the shootings, it's just senseless," Blanding said.

A vigil in Sampleton's honor will be held Friday night at 7:30 Wade Walker Park's main football field. Sampleton played football there and at Rock Chapel Park in DeKalb County.

Playing the shoe game

A 17-year-old student spoke to Channel 2's Kerry Kavanaugh about the shoe game that might be a motive in the teen's slaying.

Brookwood High School junior R.J. Smith said he and his friends are all over the Internet looking for high-end sneakers, or looking to sell them.

"Anything that's like hot on the market that you don't have, you can get on these websites there," he said.

Smith said he trades through websites like Craigslist and Addicted to All Things Fresh.

The hobby of buying, selling, and trading high-end sneakers is popular among high school students, even some middle schoolers.

But Channel 2 Action News has learned the shoe game may have cost Sampleton his life.

Police confirmed they are investigating if Sampleton's shoe trade might have motivated a robbery.

"When I saw the young man's picture, I saw my son, 14," said R.J. Smith's father, Rodney Smith.

The tragic story, days before Christmas, has this Gwinnett father rethinking how his sons play the game.

"Everyone knows who you are and where you're at and that's the danger that we weren't thinking about. And, that's what we have to take into account now," Rodney Smith said.

He said that he always accompanies his sons during their transactions. They always try to meet in a public place. Now they are considering meeting at police stations.

Gwinnett County police said as of late, they are learning more about the shoe game and the popularity of shoe forums, like Addicted to All Things Fresh.

"That's not a problem at all, except that when people are meeting up to trade these shoes or sell them, people are getting robbed," said Detective Collin Flynn.

Flynn said in just the past month, he has seen multiple people becoming victims connecting with people through that and other sites.

"The shoes are becoming an increasingly large problem because some of these shoes can be worth as much as $2,000."

Kavanaugh spoke to the administrator of Addicted To All Things Fresh.

He said his site stresses safety precautions.

They said once you join, they provide safety tips like letting the forum know when you are making a transaction and who you meet up with. He said they do so because they know some of their members are as young as middle-school children.

Channel 2 Action News

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