BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Berkeley County Sheriff Duane Lewis has announced the arrest of one man and a search for another person in a triple murder case in which the victims were found in a car earlier this week.
Deputies have arrested 20-year-old Jay Quan Washington from St. Stephen and are searching for 28-year-old Donelle Lamar McKelvey from Summerville. The sheriff’s office said Washington was out on bond for attempted murder at the time of the shooting.
Washington has been charged with three counts of murder for the deaths of 23-year-old Martice Green, 22-year-old Desmond Williams and 19-year-old Malik Gibbs who were found in a car in a field in Pineville on Monday.
All three of the victims were from St. Stephen.
McKelvey, who is considered armed and dangerous, is being sought for three counts of accessory before the fact of murder. Anyone with information on McKelvey’s whereabouts is asked to call the sheriff’s office at (843) 719-4412 or Crime Stoppers at (843) 554-1111.
According to Lewis, the motive of the murders appears to be robbery and the victims were set up. More arrests are expected.
Investigators say the victims and Washington were riding in Gibbs’ car on the day of the shooting and were found dead in the vehicle that evening.
An arrest warrant released Friday night states that Washington’s fingerprint was recovered from the outside of the rear passenger window of the car. The warrant states that Washington’s cell phone showed text messages between Washington and another person.
Authorities say these messages include Washington saying he was in the car with the victims, asking for permission to “complete his mission" at 11:47 a.m., and reporting that the victims are DOA at 3:51 p.m.
According to investigators, Washington admitted to being with two of the victims earlier in the day of the incident, but said he left the victims before 11 a.m.
Deputies say Washington was unable to account for why his fingerprint was found on the vehicle.
“This was a brutal murder and it was a senseless murder,” Lewis said during a press conference on Friday afternoon. “It happened for no reason.”
The announcement of Washington’s arrest happened after deputies executed several search warrants and recovered evidence Thursday night. Lewis said the FBI, SLED and community tips led to investigators putting the case together.
Investigators believe that the crime was in connection to gang activity.
“These gangs, affiliate gangs or wannabee gangs, if you’re involved we’ll be after you,” Lewis said. “We’re going to use every resource we have to put you in jail because that’s where you belong."
Malik Gibbs father expressed his appreciation for investigators and the community’s support.
He said his son’s life was taken far too early.
“He had his whole life ahead of him," Michael Lee Gibbs Sr. said."He made some mistakes in his life but none of us are perfect. He did not deserve this, not at all.”
Deputies discovered the victims in the area of Crawl Hill Drive near Highway 45 where deputies also found shell casings and blood on the road.
The discovery was made after emergency responders received a call around 3:30 p.m. about a disabled car that appeared to have been involved in a car accident.
When deputies arrived they found a car in a field nearby, and in the vehicle were three bodies.