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June 01, 2022

Identification of remains found at Philly's Awbury Arboretum in 2019 leads to charges against boyfriend

Keshaun Sheffield, 20, of Pottstown, allegedly fatally stabbed 22-year-old Rashid Young and deceived the victim's family, prosecutors said

Investigations Homicide
Awbury Arboretum Homicide Sheffield Courtesy/Awbury Arboretum

In August 2019, a groundskeeper at Philadelphia's Arbury Arboretum found human remains near the The Francis Cope House, picture above. The victim has now been identified, nearly three years later, as 22-year-old Rashid Young. His ex-boyfriend, 20-year-old Keshaun Sheffield, is charged with fatally stabbing him during a domestic altercation in Pottstown.

The human remains found by a groundskeeper at Awbury Arboretum in Philadelphia have been identified as belonging to a Pottstown man who was reported missing in 2019.

The victim, Rashid Young, was allegedly stabbed to death by his boyfriend during a domestic dispute, according to prosecutors, and then the defendant spent nearly three years attempting to cover-up the crime.

Keshaun Sheffield, 20, was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder in the death of Young, who was identified last Friday using dental records. 

On the morning of Sept. 30, 2019, Philadelphia police were called to an area in the rear of the Germantown arboretum's Francis Cope House. The groundskeeper had reported finding a skull and other human remains in a sack, investigators said at the time.

Days before the discovery, on Aug. 26, the groundskeeper had observed an unusual hole on the property and had planned to fill it, authorities learned. When the landscaper returned the next day, however, the hole had already been filled. About 10 feet away from the former hole was a full-sized trash container that the landscaper said had a foul smell, investigators said.

The container taken from the scene was found to have maggots and "slime" inside of it, police said. It was marked "Property of Pottstown Borough" and had a faded identifying number that was later traced to Young's former apartment on East High Street in Pottstown.

A neighbor of Young's had called police to report flooding coming from the apartment, which was empty when officers arrived on Aug. 19. The apartment was in disarray and showed signs of damage that the landlord estimated would cost more than $20,000 to repair.

A message from Young's cell phone to the landlord claimed responsibility for the damage and a pledge to pay for repairs, investigators said. 

Young, who hadn't been seen since Aug. 19, couldn't be reached by his employer and others outside his immediate family circle who attempted to contact him. He was not reported missing to police until months later, on Dec. 16, 2019. 

That's because Sheffield allegedly took control of Young's phone and social media accounts to communicate with family members, keeping up the appearance that Young was still alive, but didn't want to see them. Sheffield allegedly sent messages to Young's family members in which he pretended to be Young, telling them to leave him alone and blaming them for the failure of his romantic relationship with Sheffield, prosecutors said.

Sheffield was eventually among several people who reported Young missing in December 2019, apparently in an effort to dodge suspicion. At the time, Sheffield told Pottstown police that he and Young had been involved in a domestic altercation in August and that he had not had any contact with Young since that time. Young's cell phone and Facebook records later contradicted these claims, showing Sheffield had been posing as Young. 

During the first few months following Young's disappearance, Sheffield allegedly stole funds from Young's $2 million trust fund by transferring regular deposits into his own account, according to records obtained by investigators. The trust eventually froze the account after failing to make contact with Young for a number of months. Sheffield also drove Young's Honda Pilot around for nearly three years before it was seized in Philadelphia in April of this year, during the course of the homicide investigation

Sheffield Mugshots PottstownSource/Montgomery County D.A.'s Office

Keshaun Sheffield

Witnesses and family members interviewed by investigators said Young and Sheffield had a volatile relationship, beginning with the fact that Sheffield allegedly lied to Young about his age. By the time of Young's death, he and Sheffield had known each other for more than two years. When they met, Sheffield had told Young that he was 18 years old. At the time of the stabbing, Sheffield was 17 and Young was 22. Sheffield would have been around 15 years old when they first met.

At times, family members said, Young and Sheffield had a violent relationship. The two allegedly got into a fight at Young's apartment on Aug. 19 that ended in Sheffield fatally stabbing Young. Sheffield put Young's body into a blue recycling bin, took it to his mother's house, near Awbury Arboretum, and then got two friends to help him dig a hole and bury the body on different days.

One of the friends, who helped dig the hole, became a cooperating witness for Montgomery County detectives. The witness said Sheffield claimed he "had to" stab Young because both of them had been armed with knives during the domestic altercation..

Analysis of cell phone records also helped trace Young's cell phone to Sheffield's mother's home during the timeframe that authorities allege Sheffield buried Young at the arboretum.

Sheffield was arrested Wednesday and charged with murder, theft, fraud and related weapons charges.

“Since August 2019, a family has been searching for information about their missing son. Today, we shared with them the tragic details of his death and will be able to return his remains to them for a proper burial,” said Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele. “This is yet another case of relationship violence that turned into a murder."

The timeline of the homicide investigation by Montgomery County detectives and Philadelphia Police is detailed in the criminal complaint below.

Keshaun Sheffield Criminal Complaint by on Scribd