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Prosecutor: Lake Wylie couple killed to prevent testimony in NC robbery

Prosecutors for the first time Thursday said Doug and Debbie London were killed at their Lake Wylie home in October by Malcolm Jarrell Hartley to prevent Doug London from testifying about the May robbery of their Charlotte mattress store.

Monique Holman, a Mecklenburg County assistant district attorney, told District Court Judge Karen Eady-Williams that Hartley should be denied bond because Doug London, 63, and his wife, Debbie London, 61, were killed to keep Doug London from testifying in the robbery case.

Hartley, 21, of Charlotte, jailed without bond since Jan. 29, was in Mecklenburg County court on Thursday because he is fighting extradition to York County to face two counts of murder in the Londons’ deaths.

Hartley was denied bond Thursday. His next hearing on extradition is March 3, said Meghan Cooke, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office.

Law enforcement previously had declined to speak about the link between the robbery and the killings Oct. 23 at the Londons’ lakefront home.

Holman did not say in court what the link is between Hartley, a convicted felon, and the three Charlotte robbery suspects, who are all in jail.

Prosecutors could seek the death penalty against Hartley – and anyone else if others are charged in the case. South Carolina law allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty when a witness is murdered to impede prosecution.

Briana Johnson, 19, of Concord, is charged with two counts of murder and is being held without bond in the York County jail.

Kevin Brackett, the 16th Circuit solicitor who will prosecute Hartley in the York County killings, declined to comment Thursday about the links between the crimes. It was Brackett who said in a news conference after the arrests that the killings were linked to another crime and not a random act, but he declined to say what crime.

Federal prosecutors, the FBI and York County deputies, who acknowledged a link in the investigations of both crimes when Hartley was arrested, also declined to comment about whether the Londons were killed to keep them silent.

Doug London’s sister said at his funeral that London died with a gun in his hand trying to defend his family.

Daniel London, the couple’s grown son who was home at the time of the killings but not injured, was not in court Thursday and could not be reached for comment.

However, Daniel London has said his parents were threatened in court by family members of the accused after the robbery, and he posted on Facebook Thursday that he and family members have known the motive for the crimes for some time and he “fully supports” law enforcement’s new efforts to convict those involved in the robbery and killings.

Police say London shot one of three assailants, Jamell Cureton, during the May robbery. Cureton and his brother, who was also charged in the robbery, were in jail in October when authorities say the Londons were killed.

Cureton, 22; his brother, Nana Adoma, 19; and David Lee Fudge, 21; are jailed in Charlotte without bond on federal robbery and weapons charges from the robbery. Fudge was not in jail in October because he had pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact in the May robbery and was given probation.

Cureton and Adoma were set for trials last year in Mecklenburg County at the time the Londons were killed. Cureton had been out of prison after a drug conviction six weeks when authorities say he robbed the Londons’ mattress store and shot at Doug London in May.

Days after the Lake Wylie killings in October, the FBI and federal prosecutors indicted Cureton, Adoma and Fudge. A month ago, the FBI raided Cureton’s jail cell and seized several items, but federal court records are sealed concerning what was taken. On Jan. 29, police charged Hartley and Johnson.

Hartley’s three-year prison sentence was suspended to 30 months’ probation in 2013 when he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit armed robbery at a Domino’s Pizza branch in Charlotte in 2012. Two other men were convicted of the same charges.

He was arrested in November on drug paraphernalia charges and now prosecutors in Charlotte are trying to revoke his probation.

Hartley did not speak in court Thursday. Jessica Delucia, the assistant public defender representing Hartley in Thursday’s hearing, said that while she understands the seriousness of the charges, “at this point, (Hartley) is not guilty” and Hartley should be given bond, then would turn himself in to York County authorities on the murder charges.

But Eady-Williams balked and denied bond on the extradition warrant, saying, “Based on the nature and gravity of the South Carolina charges,” Hartley would stay in jail without bond pending extradition.

Extradition between states is almost always granted, but Hartley can continue to fight extradition and go through with the Charlotte hearing March 3.