Alan Champagne Pleads Not Guilty to Murders of People Found in Backyard Coffin in Phoenix
Alan Champagne, the man Phoenix police believe is responsible for the deaths of two people found in a homemade coffin in a backyard earlier this month, pleaded not guilty this morning to murder charges.
Champagne, 42, has an extensive record of murder-related crimes, allegedly. Champagne, who was already convicted of second-degree murder and served his prison sentence for that crime, has been in jail since last year on attempted murder charges for allegedly shooting at cops. Now, Champagne's accused of murdering two people, after landscapers unearthed human remains in a wooden box, buried at the former home of Champagne's mother.
-Alan Champagne's Backyard Bodies Were His Baby-Mama's Brother, His Girlfriend
-Alan Champagne Charged in the Deaths of Two People Found in Backyard Coffin
-Landscapers Find Coffin with Body Buried in Backyard of Murderer's Former Home
According to court documents obtained by New Times, the case started with an anonymous tip in October 2011, as someone reported that a guy named "Mico" murdered two people in a Phoenix apartment.
"Mico" was actually found to be Champagne, who lived in the apartment where this alleged killing occurred.
By the time police heard about it, there was a new tenant in the apartment -- which is just a couple of blocks from where the bodies would be unearthed, near Indian School and 16th Street -- who said that the maintenance man had done a lot of work on the place.
The maintenance man told the new tenant that the apartment "smelled horrible," so the drywall and tile had been replaced.
Cops still managed to find some sort of blood evidence in a bedroom and some sort of other fluid.
"[The maintenance man] commented that fluids appeared to have leaked from inside apartment #1 into the storage locker . . . " court documents state. "The fluid was still visible and had a greasy appearance to it."
The maintenance man also told police he helped Champagne build a wooden box, which, unbeknownst to him, would become a coffin for two people.
Later in the investigation, police found a report in which Champagne was pulled over while driving and arrested on a misdemeanor warrant.
Inside the car, cops found a Social Security card belonging to a guy named Philmon Tapaha, as well as a purse, which sure didn't belong to Champagne.
Police found out that Philmon Tapaha had been reported missing during the summer of 2011. Tapaha's sister was the mother of two children she had with Champagne. In addition, Tapaha's girlfriend Brandi Hoffner -- whom Tapaha was last seen with -- also had been reported missing around the same time.
In February of last year, police talked to Champagne's baby-mama, who said her brother was probably upset with Champagne for cheating on her, but she didn't have any information about an actual altercation.
Still, a couple of months later, Champagne became a suspect in an unrelated aggravated-assault case, and when police went to arrest him in March at his mother's place -- the same house where the bodies were dug up a couple weeks ago -- Champagne barricaded himself inside.
Champagne then started shooting at officers, police say, and he's been in jail on attempted first-degree murder charges -- and a variety of other charges -- ever since.
Champagne was still a suspect in the murder case but never spoke to investigators about it. DNA evidence concluded that Philmon Tapaha was likely killed inside the apartment formerly occupied by Champagne.
Still, neither Tapaha's nor his girlfriend's body was ever found -- until March 5.
Landscapers doing work for the new homeowner of the residence formerly owned by Champagne's mom dug up the coffin with two "mummified" bodies.
Champagne -- who was released from prison in 2005 after serving 13 years for second-degree murder -- pleaded not guilty to charges brought by a grand jury indictment.
His next court date is scheduled for May 8.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.