The mastermind and gunman of the gangland murders of Doug and Debbie London each pleaded guilty Wednesday in connection with the 2014 killings, avoiding a possible death sentence.
Jamell “Assassin” Cureton entered pleas for 10 federal charges, including three counts of murder, assault with a deadly weapon, firearm charges and conspiracy to commit racketeering.
He has been jailed since his arrest after authorities say he and two other members of a Charlotte cell of United Blood Nation attempted to rob the Londons’ mattress store in Pineville in May 2014. While jailed, Cureton plotted to have the couple killed to keep Doug London from testifying against him in the robbery trial, prosecutors and the FBI say.
The Londons were gunned down at their Lake Wylie home two years ago next month. Twelve alleged UBN members were indicted in connection with the deaths. Seven have signed plea deals and agreed to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
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Cureton, along with accused hitman Malcolm “Blood Silent” Hartley, have been key government targets from the start. U.S. Attorney Jill Rose and her prosecutors reportedly had sought the go-ahead from Attorney General Lorretta Lynch to seek the death penalty; however, as part of the plea agreement, the government agreed not to seek the death penalty against Cureton or Hartley. Both men also waived their rights to withdraw the pleas or appeal their convictions.
Hartley on Wednesday pleaded guilty to five federal charges in connection with the London killings, including two counts of murder, firearm charges and conspiracy to commit racketeering.
Cureton and Hartley will be sentenced at a later date, after a pre-sentence report has been completed for each defendant. Neither defendant made comment or statement in court Wednesday.
Prosecutors charged six of the original defendants with crimes that carried a death sentence. Three – David “Flames” Fudge, Rahkeem “Big Keem” McDonald and Briana “Breezy B” Johnson, who drove Hartley to the Londons’ home, pleaded guilty last year and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Earlier this year, prosecutors said they would not seek the death penalty against Ahkeem “Little Keem” McDonald, the gang’s original choice to carry out the killings. McDonald and Cureton are accused of the 2013 execution-style slaying of 18-year-old Kwamne Clyburn, to which Cureton also pleaded guilty Wednesday.
Clyburn, a homeless teenager from Winston-Salem, was found dead in Pressley Road Park in Charlotte in August 2013. Court documents say he was shot multiple times because he falsely claimed to be a member of the gang.
A new indictment released in June ties the gang members linked to the Londons’ killings with other acts of violence, from murder and robbery to retaliatory shootings of rivals.
The indictment alludes to a UBN meeting within weeks of the Londons’ killings when the gang allegedly debated the assassination of one its own members who was believed to be cooperating with police.