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Detective: Drug suspect sought to ‘execute’ rapper’s grandparents when they could not get to him

By Brendan Kirby

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    MOBILE, Alabama (WALA) — Revenge over a social media insult motivated last year’s sensational slaying of a Happy Hill couple whose home exploded during a hail of gunfire, a police investigator testified Tuesday.

Mobile County District Judge Spiro Cheriogotis found prosecutors had presented enough evidence to send a murder charge against one of the co-defendants to a grand jury. After a separate hearing, the judge also found probable cause for a grand jury to consider an unrelated murder case against that defendant, Patrick Vashun Lewis and two other co-defendants. That shooting occurred about seven months after the Happy Hill slaying.

The first homicide occurred on Dr. Thomas Avenue in Feb. 17, 2017. Mobile police Detective Julius Nettles testified that two gunman fired multiple rounds into the house, striking 62-year-old Tony Lewis twice – in the groin and the liver. The investigator said the house had five oxygen tanks, which he added likely sparked a blaze that killed 68-year-old Leila Lewis, destroyed the home and severely damaged a neighboring house.

The couple were the grandparents of rapper HoneyKomb Brazy.

Nettles testified that co-defendant Terrance Sanchez Watkins felt disrespected by a Facebook post made by a different Mobile-born rapper OMB Peezy, whose real name is LeParis Dade.

“The beef was with the rapper OMB Peezy,” the officer testified.

Nettles testified that Watkins and his co-defendants were unable to get to Dade or Brazy, who have the same record label.

“They plotted to execute the grandparents, or whoever was in that house at the time,” he said.

Letecha Lang, the victims’ niece, said she was relieved the case is moving forward.

“They didn’t deserve this at all,” she said after the hearing. “No one deserves to be treated like they was treated. So we just, thank you God … and hopefully everything works out to where we can get a conviction.”

Lang said she and other relatives learned some new details during the hearing. But the most important thing, she added, is to hold the defendants accountable.

“Two innocent, elderly people that enjoyed life, enjoyed spending time with their grandkids, was taken away from here in a gruesome way, and they didn’t deserve that,” she said.

Case built on wiretap evidence Much of the evidence in this case comes from federal wiretaps that recorded three of the defendants who ended up getting convicted of drug conspiracy charges. The recorded phone conversations are among Darrin “DD” Jamark Southall, Watkins and Jamarcus Devonta Chambers.

Nettles said Lewis, 21, does not appear on the wiretaps but that the other three reference him repeatedly. And he testified that Chambers told investigators that he drove the vehicle to the victims’ home.

In addition, Nettles said, investigators used cell phone data to pinpoint Lewis’ location about a half-mile away from the crime scene less than an hour before the shooting, when the defendants were alleged to have gotten guns in the nearby Plateau community. Nettles testified that police stopped Lewis a few months later and recovered a cell phone matching the one that was near the crime scene in February.

During cross-examination, defense attorney James Byrd suggested that prosecutors do not have strong evidence tying his client to the crime. He said the location evidence shows only that his client’s cell phone was near the crime scene. He said nothing puts Lewis there except the word of co-defendants.

“I haven’t heard the recorded phone calls. Obviously, that will be important,” he said outside the courtroom. “But presently, it appears that all they have is other criminals trying to say my client is the bad guy.”

Nettles said the wiretaps are “compelling and overwhelming” and that investigators have been able to independently corroborate much of what the defendants said. For instance, he testified, they discussed plans to go to a dealership to get vehicles for the shooting. Sure enough, Nettles said, they did get vehicles at that dealership.

“To hear this in real time is disgusting, honestly. … When you listen to those phone calls, it’s ridiculous,” he said.

Chambers and Watkins remain in federal custody and have not yet been arraigned on the murder charges. The same is true for Southall, who last year admitted to running the largest drug distribution network in Mobile in recent memory. Prosecutors contend that although he was not present for the shooting, he aided and abetted it.

Byrd said he believes prosecutors will have challenges getting some evidence admitted in state court and speculated that the U.S. Attorney’s Office may pursue federal charges.

“I would not be surprised if the double-homicide case (goes to) federal court,” he said.

Bel Air shooting over watch, police say The second murder case involving Lewis stems from a fatal shooting on Sept. 18 in the parking lot of the Shoppes at Bel Air.

According to testimony Tuesday, Bryan Maynard was trying to sell a diamond-studded Cartier watch valued at $20,000.

Mobile police Detective Kenvada Taylor testified that Maynard and Nickolaus Hawkins communicated over Instagram and that Maynard and a friend drove to Mobile from North Carolina. She said Hawkins and Maynard went to a jewelry store in the mall to confirm the authenticity of the watch. Maynard wanted $10,000, but Hawkins gave him $8,500, she said.

While Hawkins was counting his money inside his car, Taylor testified, co-defendants Albert Quinney and Lewis approached the car with guns.

“The victim tussled with Mr. Lewis with the gun and two shots went off,” she said.

Taylor testified that police recovered $7,845 in bloodstained cash.

Taylor testified that the passenger in the vehicle gave police a description of the shooter that matched Lewis but that he could not pick his photo out of an array.

Hawkins, according to the testimony did not have a gun and standing outside the mall when the shooting occurred. His attorney, Dennis Knizley, argued there is virtually no evidence connecting his client to the incident.

“What the evidence is right now is Mr. Hawkins was in the mall, made a transaction with another gentleman,” he said. “That gentleman walked out to the front of the mall. Mr. Hawkins stood there. And (Maynard) got shot. Where’s Mr. Hawkins’ culpability?”

But Walker said phone records connect Hawkins to Quinney, and he added that he implausibly claimed to have not heard the gunshots. That shows “consciousness of guilt,” the prosecutor said.

“Our theory is that he was a participant in helping arrange this robbery and, therefore, that’s why he’s charged with felony murder or participation in the underlying felony of armed robbery,” he said.

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