HARRISBURG – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Kevin Coles, age 36, of New York, NY and Hagerstown, Maryland, was found guilty yesterday of multiple crimes, including murder for hire, robbery, and drug trafficking after a three-week trial before United States District Court Judge Christopher C. Conner. The jurors deliberated for approximately three hours before rendering a guilty verdict on all counts.
According to United States Attorney John C. Gurganus, the charges against Coles were the result of a six-year investigation into three murders that occurred on June 25, 2016, on a property along Welsh Run Road in Mercersburg, Franklin County. When Pennsylvania State Police officers were called to the scene, they found Wendy Ann Chaney, 39, Hagerstown, Md, Brandon Cole, 47, Fayetteville, PA, and Phillip Matthew Jackson, 36, Mercersburg, PA, all to have been shot in a barn on victim Jackson’s property. The three victims had their hands zipped-tied behind their backs and had been set on fire. Jackson and Cole were shot once in the head. Chaney was shot twice, once in the back and one in the head. Wendy Chaney and Brandon Cole were already dead when the police responded to the scene. Phillip Jackson was transported to York Hospital where he died shortly after arrival.
The evidence presented at trial established that Wendy Chaney was in a relationship with Coles and had been previously assisting him with his drug distribution operation. Coles learned that Chaney was cooperating with federal authorities and contracted for her to be murdered. Intermediaries recruited members of a Baltimore based gang known as the Black Guerilla Family and others from Baltimore to travel to the Jackson property to kill Wendy Chaney. The killers were promised that they could take as payment $20,000 that was to be in a safe in the barn and any drugs and firearms that they could locate on the Jackson property. Once there, the killers encountered not only Wendy Chaney but also Brandon Cole and Phillip Jackson. All were murdered to prevent them from cooperating and from being witnesses to the crimes of violence that were committed at that time. The killers never found any money on the property.
The evidence also established that Coles was involved in trafficking significant amounts of heroin and crack cocaine in Chambersburg, PA, Hagerstown, MD and elsewhere. The jury found that two individuals to whom Coles distributed heroin suffered serious bodily injury when they overdosed on the heroin Coles supplied and had to be resuscitated by the administration of Narcan. Finally, the jury found Coles guilty of using, brandishing and discharging a firearm during and in relation to his drug trafficking activities.
“This is one of the most disturbing and violent cases in this Division’s history. The fact that all three victims were shot in the head with their hands restrained and then set on fire shows how utterly deplorable these murders were,” said Thomas Hodnett, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Philadelphia Field Division. “Coles was the one who contracted for these murders to occur due to Chaney’s cooperation with the DEA. Let me be clear; anyone who attempts to intimidate, harm, or murder a witness will feel the full wrath and weight of a federal criminal prosecution.”
“We would like to thank all of the personnel within the department and our local, state and federal partners who worked tirelessly on this case,” said Pennsylvania State Police, Troop H Captain Mark Magyar. “The total team effort is a testament to what is needed to successfully investigate and prosecute a case of this magnitude.”
Initially, Coles, along with other individuals, were charged in connection with the investigation:
- Devin Dickerson, age 31, Hagerstown, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute heroin and crack cocaine and is awaiting sentencing;
- Kenyatta Corbett, age 38, Hagerstown, pleaded guilty to Hobbs Act robbery and to being an accomplice to the use of a firearm during Hobbs Act robbery and is awaiting sentencing;
- Michael Buck, age 30, Hagerstown, pleaded guilty to Hobbs Act robbery and to being an accomplice to the use of a firearm during Hobbs Act robbery and is awaiting sentencing;
- Nicholas Preddy, age 29, Baltimore, pleaded guilty to attempting to kill a witness and is awaiting sentencing;
- Johnnie Jenkins-Armstrong, age 22, Baltimore, pleaded guilty to Hobbs Act robbery and to being an accomplice to the use of a firearm during Hobbs Act robbery and is awaiting sentencing;
- Terrance Lawson, age 31, Baltimore, sentenced to time served for attempting to intimidate a witness;
- Tyrone Armstrong, age 30, Baltimore, sentenced to time served for attempting to intimidate a witness; and
- Christopher Johnson, age 31, Baltimore, Maryland, pleaded guilty to multiple counts including murder for hire and is awaiting sentencing.
Joshua Davis, age 30, previously pled guilty to participating in the conspiracy to locate and kill an individual believed to be cooperating with federal authorities in the investigation of the triple murders. Davis was sentenced to serve 100 months’ imprisonment.
Two other individuals, Torey White, age 30, of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, and Jerell Adgebesan, age 32, of Baltimore, Maryland, are charged in connection with the investigation and are awaiting trial.
The following federal, state and local law enforcement agencies participated in the investigation: Drug Enforcement Administration Harrisburg Resident Office; Pennsylvania State Police, Chambersburg; Pennsylvania State Police, Troop H; Franklin County Drug Task Force; Franklin County Adult Probation; Pennsylvania State Probation and Parole; Hagerstown Police Department, Criminal Investigation Division; Drug Enforcement Administration, Hagerstown Resident Office; Washington County Narcotics Task Force; Drug Enforcement Administration, Baltimore District Office, Strike Force Group 1; Maryland State Police Homicide Unit; Baltimore Police Department Narcotics, Fugitive And Homicide Units; Baltimore County Police Department Narcotics and Gang Unit; Federal Bureau of Investigation Evidence Management Unit, Quantico, VA; US Marshal’s Service Harrisburg, PA and Phoenix, AZ; Franklin County District Attorney’s Office; United States Attorney’s Office, District Of Maryland; and the Washington County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Assistant United States Attorney William A. Behe, Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, and Senior Litigation Counsel Michael Consiglio are prosecuting the case.
This case was part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Program, the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
This case was also brought as part of a district wide initiative to combat the nationwide epidemic regarding the use and distribution of heroin. Led by the United States Attorney’s Office, the Heroin Initiative targets heroin traffickers operating in the Middle District of Pennsylvania and is part of a coordinated effort among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who commit heroin related offenses.
This prosecution is also part of an extensive investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) identified as “Retribution for Welsh Run”. OCDETF is a joint federal, state, and local cooperative approach to combat drug trafficking and is the nation’s primary tool for disrupting and dismantling major drug trafficking organizations, targeting national and regional level drug trafficking organizations and coordinating the necessary law enforcement entities and resources to disrupt or dismantle the targeted criminal organization and seize their assets.
The penalty under federal law for several of these offenses is mandatory life imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine. A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
Indictments and Criminal Informations are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.
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