A group of Charlotte-area gang members plotted the killings of Doug and Debbie London for weeks before the couple were gunned down last October in their Lake Wylie home, a new indictment says.
Afterward, according to the indictment, members of United Blood Nation celebrated the fact that Doug London could no longer testify against the three gang members who tried to rob the couple’s South Boulevard mattress store last May.
Wednesday, the government struck back.
In an early morning sweep covering two parts of the state, the FBI and other law enforcement groups arrested a dozen suspected members of UBN, a sprawling East Coast criminal network with a history of violence and other crimes across the Charlotte region.
Six of the alleged UBN members were charged with the shooting deaths of the Londons.
One of the couple’s accused killers, Jamell Cureton, along with another UBN member, is charged with the 2013 murder of Kwamne Clyburn in west Charlotte. According to the indictment, Clyburn was shot to death for “false claiming,” gang parlance for saying he was a gang member when he was not. Doug London shot and wounded Cureton during the attempted robbery of the mattress store.
Under federal racketeering laws, all seven charged with the two deaths face the death penalty.
Five other reputed UBN members arrested Wednesday have been charged with conspiracy in connection with the killings and other criminal activity. They face maximum penalties of life without parole.
The Londons’ deaths remain among the region’s most shocking killings in recent years. The indictment, which follows a five-month investigation by federal and local officials, outlines a complex web of crime stretching back three years.
It follows instances of brazen UBN violence in the Carolinas, including the kidnapping of the father of a Raleigh-area prosecutor last spring and possible threats against two Charlotte-based judges discovered during an FBI raid on Cureton’s jail cell.
Those charged with murder in connection with the Londons’ killings include:
▪ Cureton, also known as “Assassin” and “Murda Mel,” and the alleged jailhouse mastermind of the killings, the indictment says.
▪ David “Flames” Fudge, who prosecutors say drove the get-away car after the failed mattress store robbery and took an active role planning the killings.
▪ Randall “Foe” Hankins, another of the accused planners.
Related stories from Charlotte Observer
▪ Rahkeem “Big Keem” McDonald, who was chastised at one point by other UBN members for failing to pull off the killings, the indictment says.
▪ Malcolm “Silent Bloody” Hartley, who is accused of firing the shots that killed the couple.
▪ Briana “Breezy B” Johnson, who drove the car to and from the Londons’ home, the indictment says.
Cureton and Ahkeem “Lil Keem” McDonald are charged with murder in connection with Clyburn’s death.
Five others are charged with conspiracy in connection to the killings, among other crimes. They are:
▪ Nana “Ratchett” Adoma, Cureton’s brother, who was already in custody for taking part in the attempted robbery of the mattress store.
▪ Ibn “IB” Kornegay, a top UBN leader from eastern North Carolina who was arrested in Greenville on Wednesday.
▪ Centrilia “CeCe” Leach, who researched Doug London at Cureton’s request, the indictment says.
▪ Nehemijel “Swagg Out” Houston and Daquan “Day Day” Everett, who both took part in the phone planning about killings then joined the celebration once the Londons were dead, prosecutors say.
Cureton, Fudge and Adoma were already in custody on robbery and firearms charges from the attempt on the mattress store. Hartley and Johnson remain jailed in York County, S.C., where the Londons’ killings occurred. Acting U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose said the two could be transferred to federal custody in Charlotte within the week.
During a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Rose and York County Solicitor Kevin Brackett said the gang members had threatened public safety and the rule of law.
“When you silence a witness, ... you attack the rule of law. You attack the right of people to defend themselves,” Brackett said, his voice rising.
“The response of the criminal justice system will be dramatic.”
The alleged plot
In May, Cureton was wounded when he and Doug London exchanged gunfire during the attempted robbery of the Mattress Warehouse in Pineville.
In October, according to the 51-page indictment, Cureton began plotting his reprisal from his cell in the Mecklenburg County Jail.
The 22-year-old Cureton and other gang members discussed the hit during meetings and on the phone, the indictment says. Cureton wrote two letters to the eventual gunman, Malcolm “Silent Bloody” Hartley, ordering him to commit the killings.
Hartley, Johnson and other UBN members later drove to Greenville to discuss their plans with Kornegay, the highest-ranking gang official involved in the plot, investigators say.
Hartley and Johnson made at least one trip to the mattress store “to intimidate or kill” the Londons, according to the indictment.
Gang members met by phone Oct. 15 to discuss their plot, with the final planning meeting taking place Oct. 23, the indictment says. Later that night, the Londons were shot multiple times with .380 caliber pistol as they answered the door of their lakeside home.
After disposing of the gun, clothing and other evidence, Hartley and Johnson joined other defendants to celebrate the killings, “to celebrate their victory,” Rose said.
UBN is the East Coast arm of the older and better-known Bloods, which started in California. UBN was founded in 1993 by two inmates in New York’s Rikers Island prison to protect African-American inmates from established Latino gangs.
Federal documents say the gang spread south through the prison system and through the drug and gun trade, taking root in the Southeast around the turn of the century. According to a Justice Department profile of the gang, North Carolina has long been a key distribution center for UBN cocaine and marijuana shipments out of New York.
The gang is characterized by its hierarchical organization, in which a national council retains authority over dozens of local “cells.” In the Charlotte area, the UBN cell is known as “G-Shine,” which first organized in New York, court documents show.
Experts say UBN is also set apart by the level of violence members appear willing to use, even compared with other gangs.
Earlier this year, two judges and the Charlotte city attorney were placed under protective watch after their photos were found in Cureton’s cell during a January raid by the FBI. One of the judges, U.S. District Judge Frank Whitney, later recused himself from the robbery case against Cureton, Fudge and Adoma.
Forgiveness and justice
According to friends and family, Doug and Debbie London thought it was their civic duty to attend the pretrial hearings of the three men accused of trying to rob them.
They stopped going after family and friends of the suspects threatened them as they left the courtroom, a family member said.
“I don’t think they ever thought that this would be their demise,” said the couple’s longtime pastor, Dickie Spargo of Bethlehem Church in Gastonia.
“You know, it’s been very difficult for their family to understand the finality of Doug and Debbie’s passing,” he said. “It’s painful in a lot of ways to know now how this all transpired. But there is peace in knowing what kind of people Doug and Debbie were. What happened to them doesn’t define them.”
The couple’s son, Daniel London, who was in the house at the time of the shootings, did not respond to an email seeking comment Wednesday. (Rose said the families of the Londons and Clyburn had been informed of what was coming Wednesday.)
Spargo said the indictment and arrests “brings a certain relief” to friends and family. “It’s not the end zone. But there’s some comfort in knowing what happened to Doug and Debbie won’t happen to another couple.”
“I believe if they were here today, they would want to forgive. But even forgiveness doesn’t mean that justice doesn’t need to happen. We’ve been praying for justice, and we’re grateful.”