Prosecutor: Gang members killed Lake Wylie couple to prevent them from testifying
LAKE WYLIE, NC (WBTV) - Six gang members have been charged in the October 2014 killings of a business couple in Lake Wylie. Three of those members reportedly robbed a store owned by the couple months earlier and were attempting keep the couple from testifying.
Six members of the "United Blood Nation" (UBN) are charged in the killing of Debbie and Doug London, according to court documents. They could receive the death penalty.
Deputies say 61-year-old Debbie London and 63-year-old Doug London were found shot to death in their Tioga Road home on October 23, 2014. The couple's son, Daniel London, found the couple and called 911.
After an FBI raid of Charlotte's UBN, 12 defendants were charged in a racketeering operation conspiracy.
Six of those members, Jamell Lamon Cureton, David Lee Fudge, Randall Avery Hankins II, Malcolm Jarrel Hartley, Briana Shakeyah Johnson and Rahkeem Lee McDonald, are charged in the killing of the Londons, according to a federal indictment that was unsealed on Wednesday.
Additionally, Nana Yaw Adoma, Daquan Lamar Everett, Nehemijel Maurice Houston, Ibn Rashaan Kornegay, Centrilia Shardon Leach and Ahkeem Tahja McDonald were charged in the conspiracy.
Four of the people charged in connection with the case were already in custody. Two other suspects were arrested Wednesday.
Three of the members, Cureton, Nana Yaw Adoma and Fudge, previously robbed the couple's mattress store and the members were attempting to stop the Londons from testifying.
The defendants operated under a common set of rules known as the "31" and used a ranking system. They participate in meetings, "like any other enterprise," acting U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose said in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. They "discuss punishment for those they fear may be cooperating with law enforcement," Rose said.
On Oct. 1, Hartley and Johnson conducted surveillance of The Mattress Warehouse of Pineville on South Boulevard in an attempt to locate the Londons and kill them, court documents state. They not only wanted to prevent the Londons from testifying, but documents say they wanted to retaliate against the couple for previous court appearances related to the robbery case.
Doug London tried to defend the store and his life, police said, when he shot and hit one of the suspects, later identified as Cureton. Cureton went to a local hospital and was arrested on state robbery charges.
That's when Rose said the defendants began to exchange correspondents and conspire with each other to plan the murder of Douglas London, "the only eyewitness to the robbery."
The indictment says in September - Malcolm Hartley got a gun that was eventually used to kill the Londons. Later that month, according to investigators, Briana Johnson joined Fudge and Hartley in a gang meeting to discuss her membership, and her duty to drive Hartley to commit shootings.
Wednesday night, Johnson's mother spoke to WBTV on the phone and said "she seriously doubts her daughter was trying to be initiated into that gang."
She said Johnson "really liked Hartley and wanted to be cool and got caught up."
On Oct. 5, the gang members conducted a meeting in Greenville. Two days later the members conducted a phone meeting where they planned the killing of Doug and Debbie London, court documents state. Apparently, two members failed to accomplish "that goal."
That's when someone known to the Grand Jury received a text from Fudge saying that he had "sent the hit," meaning he ordered the killing of the couple.
After several more meetings, the "Hitman," Rahkeem Lee McDonald, along with Hartley, Fudge, Cureton and Hankins, "conspired to, attempted to, and did murder Douglas London and Deborah London at the Londons' residence in Clover," court documents state.
Acting U-S Attorney Rose said Johnson drove Hartley to the Londons' Lake Wylie home and Hartley shot the couple.
"Hartley and Johnson returned to the Charlotte area where they began to dispose of evidence of murders and grotesquely celebrated the deaths of Doug and Debbie London, the prosecutor said during a press conference.
The next meeting was a celebration. In a telephone meeting on Oct. 25, Hartley admitted to killing the couple.
Earlier this year, York County Solicitor Kevin Brackett, in whose district the Londons were killed, charged Johnson and Hartley each with two counts of murder for the killings.
During Wednesday press conference Brackett said "when you kill somebody to shut down a prosecution, when you silence a witness in order to prevent the government from enforcing the laws, you're not just attacking those two people, you're attacking the rule of law, you're attacking society."
Brackett said his office will no longer prosecute Johnson and Hartley. Federal authorities have taken the case.
Brackett said investigators and prosecutors from both York County and the federal government met and decided the best venue for prosecuting the case is in federal court where all the alleged gang members who took part in the conspiracy and planned the Londons' murders could be held accountable, and face the death penalty.
Relatives of Doug and Debbie London declined to talk about the arrests. Their son, Daniel, said he "continues to support the authorites and prosecutors in this matter."
Multiple sources confirmed previously to WBTV that Hartley was a "high-ranking" member of the Bloods gang. According to NC Department of Corrections online records, Hartley was convicted in 2013 for conspiracy to commit armed robbery.
Officials did say that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) helped with the homicide investigation in an effort to share information about the two crimes.
"I do think there are those out there that know of my parents death and how/why it was done," Daniel London told WBTV in late November.
"I would tell them to cherish the time they have here on Earth, because in eternity they will have to answer to God for their crimes. Evil men can live as princes in this life, but they will be eternally punished after death."
He also said that he had suspicions about who murdered his parents, but added, "I have full confidence in investigators to draw conclusions." He went on to say that he was "glad that the FBI is involved in the robbery investigation.
Doug and Debbie London were popular, long-time residents on Tioga Road. Relatives and friends said there wasn't anything in their lives that invited the violence that claimed their lives.
Special Agent John Strong said Wednesday that the gang threat in North Carolina is "very very strong."
Strong said the United Blood Nation gang is “part of a web of violence that reached across state lines without regard for innocent lives.”
And according to the acting U-S Attorney, “they allegedly sold, bought, traded firearms, committed robberies and violent offenses and very importantly obstructed law enforcement from identifying, investigating, and prosecuting other gang members.”
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