None of the six North Carolina Bloods gang members charged with murder and conspiracy in connection with the shooting deaths of a Lake Wylie couple will be prosecuted in York County because only those directly involved in the killings could have faced the death penalty under South Carolina law.
Since federal law allows for the death penalty for those convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, York County prosecutors and sheriff’s investigators have agreed to allow all of the cases to be handled in U.S. District Court in Charlotte.
For a crime as heinous and violent as the killings of Doug and Debbie London, York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant and 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett said Wednesday, the defendants deserve to face the death penalty.
The Londons were gunned down at their Lake Wylie home in October, five months after they were robbed at their Charlotte mattress store. Police and prosecutors say the killings were ordered by Jamell Cureton to prevent Doug London from testifying against him.
“There would be no death penalty eligibility for Mr. Cureton for accessory before the fact to murder,” Brackett said, “so the best place for justice to be done where the death penalty can be sought is the federal court.”
In a South Carolina court, only Malcolm Hartley, the alleged shooter, and Brianna Johnson, who police say drove him to the Londons’ home, would be eligible for the death penalty.
So Brackett and Bryant – whose detectives, with help from the FBI and Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, put together a case that led to state murder charges – gave all their investigation materials to federal prosecutors, who announced Wednesday the indictments of 12 people in a far-ranging plot. Six of those indicted will face the death penalty in federal court.
York County investigators, who have spent six months on the case, are still an integral part of the murder investigation.
Hartley and Johnson, in jail in York County since their arrests in January, will be taken to a federal jail in Charlotte within days.
Brackett and Bryant said at a news conference Wednesday in Charlotte that where trials take place is not as important as obtaining convictions for those responsible for the killing of a witness.
Bryant, who has worked in law enforcement for 43 years, said killers do not see state lines.
Brackett, who has been a prosecutor for 25 years, said York County has had a previous murder-for-hire case against a witness, but the killing of the Londons is as egregious as any because it was an attack on the rule of law and a civilized society.
“These defendants attacked the right of society to defend itself from these kinds of crimes,” Brackett said.