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

For the first time Thursday, prosecutors stated that Doug and Debbie London were killed at their Lake Wylie home in October by Malcolm Jarrell Hartley to prevent Doug London from testifying in court about the May robbery of their Charlotte mattress store by three other men.

Hartley, 21, of Charlotte, jailed without bond since Jan. 29, was in court at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse on Thursday morning because he is fighting extradition to be brought to York County to face two counts of murder for both killings.

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 and his wife, Debbie London, 61, were killed to keep Doug London from testifying in the robbery case.

Law enforcement previously had declined to speak about the specific 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 Charlotte robbery suspects, who are all in jail.

Hartley was denied bond Thursday. It remains unclear when he will be brought to York County to face charges. Because there were two victims, the case could be a death penalty trial.

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 the “murder of a witness or potential witness (is) committed at any time during the criminal process for the purpose of impeding or deterring prosecution of any crime.”

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

Hartley’s next hearing on extradition is set for March 3, said Meghan Cooke, a spokeswoman for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg District Attorney’s Office.

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 of violence, but he declined at the time of arrests to say what specific 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 on the news that the Londons were killed to keep them silent in the robbery case.

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 previously that 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 try to convict all of those involved in both the robbery and killings.

Police say London shot one of three assailants, Jamell Cureton, during the May robbery. Cureton and his brother, who was 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 already 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 only 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 took over the case and 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 had a three-year prison sentence 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.

“He is not a fugitive like Richard Kimble,” Delucia said, referring to the fictional wrongly accused hero of the 1993 movie and 1960s TV show, “The Fugitive.”

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.

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