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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Pennsylvania

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, November 21, 2019

Maryland Man Pleads Guilty To Murder, Drug Trafficking And Obstruction Of Justice

HARRISBURG – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Christopher Johnson, age 31, previously residing in Baltimore, Maryland, pleaded guilty before Chief United States District Court Judge Christopher C. Conner 

to one count of conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery; three counts of use of a firearm during a crime of violence resulting in death; one count of interstate travel to commit a murder for hire; one count of conspiracy to kill a witness to a federal offense to prevent communication to a federal law enforcement officer; three counts of killing a witness to a federal offense to prevent communication to a federal law enforcement officer; and one count of felon in possession of a firearm.

According to United States Attorney David J. Freed, the charges were the result of a two and a half year investigation into three murders that occurred in a barn on June 25, 2016, on a property along Welsh Run Road in Mercersburg, Franklin County. The murders were drug related and one of the victims was providing information regarding several of the defendants and others to federal/state law enforcement drug task forces in Maryland. The individuals involved in the murders also joined with others to obstruct the grand jury’s investigation and to locate and kill an individual believed to be assisting federal investigators with the murder investigation. 

Johnson, along with ten coconspirators, were charged in a superseding indictment on December 20, 2018, with murder, drug trafficking, and obstruction of justice.

Charged in the superseding indictment were:         

  • Kevin Coles, age 34, Hagerstown, Maryland;
  • Devin Dickerson, age 31, Hagerstown;
  • Torey White, age 30, Waynesboro, Pennsylvania;
  • Jerell Adgebesan, age 32, Baltimore, Maryland;
  • Kenyatta Corbett, age 38, Hagerstown; 
  • Michael Buck, age 30, Hagerstown;
  • Nicholas Preddy, age 29, Baltimore;
  • Johnnie Jenkins-Armstrong, age 22, Baltimore;
  • Terrance Lawson, age 31, Baltimore; and 
  • Tyrone Armstrong, age 30, Baltimore.

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 recently sentenced by United States District Court Judge John E. Jones, III to 100 months’ imprisonment. Several other individuals who were separately indicted on charges of obstructing the federal investigation into the triple murders have also pled guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

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 is part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws.  Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian draws upon the Department’s past successful programs to reduce gun violence; enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting gun crimes; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a prohibited individual attempts to purchase a firearm and is denied by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), to include taking appropriate actions when a prospective purchaser is denied by the NICS for mental health reasons; and ensures that federal resources are directed at the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities.

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 foe 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.

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.

The maximum penalty under federal law for several of these offenses is life imprisonment or the possibility of the death penalty, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant's educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.

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Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Violent Crime
Updated November 21, 2019