Crime & Courts

Charlotte authorities scour Facebook and Google for clues to couple’s killing

Jamell Cureton ordered and planned the killings of Doug and Debbie London from his Mecklenburg jail cell, court documents say.
Jamell Cureton ordered and planned the killings of Doug and Debbie London from his Mecklenburg jail cell, court documents say. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

The FBI and other agencies used both old-school and Internet-age investigative techniques to tie a Charlotte gang to the murders of Doug and Debbie London, new documents show.

Relying on more traditional methods, investigators interviewed an old girlfriend of a reputed United Blood Nation member. They took tips from jailhouse and gang informants, and also raided the homes and jail cells of the gang members they believed had planned and carried out the fatal Oct. 23 shootings at the couple’s South Carolina home.

But their investigation also had a more contemporary slant. Agents took out search warrants against Facebook to hunt for clues in the postings of their suspects. They scoured Google to see if any of the suspected gang members had used the search engine to locate the couple’s home. They also got a judge’s permission to go after carriers for cell phone records.

The hundreds of pages of court documents released in the past week pull together the day-to-day gang planning of a brazen crime, in which suspected UBN members struck into the heart of Charlotte suburbia to block testimony in an upcoming trial, authorities say. Today, six gang members face the death penalty in connection with the Londons’ deaths.

Authorities say Jamell “Murda Mell” Cureton and two other UBN cohorts tried to rob the Londons’ mattress store in Pineville in May 2014. Doug London shot Cureton during the attempt, and the three suspects were charged with attempted robbery.

Cureton, however, wanted Doug London silenced before the trial, new documents indicate. During an Oct. 7 recorded phone call from the Mecklenburg jail, Cureton told Randall Avery “Foe” Hankins that “I’ve got some s--t I need handled.”

Hankins replied: “Yeah man, I’m already on it. We got something planned.”

Cureton preached caution. “I don’t need you n---as in orange. I need you n---as in regular clothes,” he laughed.

According to the affidavit, the planners picked Malcolm Hartley to make the hit. The gang member known as “Bloody Silent” accepted the job to move up in ranks of the “Valentine Bloods,” the UBN branch operating in and around Charlotte. He later picked up the suspected murder weapon at Hankins’ home, according to an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Michael Robinson.

In the days leading up to killings, Hartley kept in close contact with both Cureton and Hankins.

On Oct. 15, Cureton called Hartley. Again the call was taped.

“I need to rearrange some things,” Cureton said, according to the affidavit. He told Hartley to put operations on hold until Cureton mailed him instructions.

On Oct. 23 – the day the Londons were shot to death in their Lake Wylie, S.C., home – Hartley’s cell phone had 84 communications with nine other numbers. All but 20 of them appeared to be texts. Many of them were with Hankins.

The day-long communication between the two stopped around 6:30 that night and did not resume until 8:47. Documents say Hartley gunned down the Londons’ after they answered their front door. Debbie London was shot once in the head. Doug London was hit four times. He fired one shot but his gun jammed. According to the new documents, authorities believed that the gun misfired because someone tried to grab it.

The FBI’s search of social media uncovered some other unusual details.

The day before the killings, Hankins posted a photograph of himself on his Facebook page with a chrome and black handgun tucked into his waistband, records indicate.

Later, authorities later found this message on his page. “I GOT CHROME HIT YO BLOCK AT 8 O CLOCK KAUSE I FELT IT WAS ON ...”

Authorities say the Londons died at around 8:10 p.m.

Two days later, Cureton again called Hartley from the jail.

“Who do I owe my thanks to?” he asked. Researcher Maria David contributed.

Gordon: 704-358-5095

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