CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A man who orchestrated the killings of a Lake Wylie couple while he was in jail has entered a guilty plea to federal charges. The man who pulled the trigger also admitted his guilt.
Jamell Cureton and Malcolm Hartley were in federal court Wednesday afternoon. Both men answered in separate hearings "yes" or "yes sir" to federal District Judge Max Cogburn's questions.
Based on the factual basis entered in this case, Cureton and Hartley said they are guilty of being in a gang that worked together to silence the Londons after three gang members robbed the Londons' mattress store.
"It really is chilling," U.S. Attorney, Jill Westmoreland Rose said after the hearings. "This is the thing that a community fears, right? That you're a victim, then you do the right thing - you follow through with the process and then suddenly you're targeted and killed because you've done the right thing."
According to court documents, Doug and Debbie London were killed at their home in Lake Wylie in October 2014 after Jamell Cureton ordered the killings through jailhouse phone calls and letters.
Malcolm Hartley was promoted in the gang after he killed the Londons at their home.
If the two men chose to go to trial versus the guilty pleas they could have faced the death penalty. Part of both of their plea agreements was that the attorney general would not pursue the death penalty in their cases. Hartley pleaded guilty to five federal charges, and Cureton pleaded guilty to ten federal charges.
"Without talking about my client's incentive in this case, I would say that any defendant faces a terrible choice to exercise their constitutional right to a jury trial versus facing the death penalty. We're very grateful, in this case, that the government did not seek the death penalty and allowed us to plea," said Cureton's defense lawyer, Rick Winiker. "However having the death penalty at all is a terrible thing for the justice system and for this country."
On behalf of the Londons' family, Westmoreland Rose said they did not want the death penalty.
"This has been incredibly difficult on them and this was the result that they wanted," Westmoreland Rose said. "They did not want to proceed through litigation and a death penalty trial. They wanted to put this to an end."
Both men were not sentenced Wednesday. That will come after a pre-sentence report is made for each. Sentencing has not yet been scheduled.