Three Consecutive Life Sentences For Man Who Participated In The Murder Of Three People Including A Federal Witness
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Pennsylvania
HARRISBURG – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced today that Kevin Coles, age 37, of New York and Hagerstown, Maryland, was sentenced to three consecutive terms of life imprisonment for his role in the June 25, 2016, murders of three individuals in Mercersburg, Franklin County, one of whom was cooperating with state and federal drug investigators. The consecutive sentences were imposed by United States District Court Judge Christopher C. Conner, who also sentenced Coles to multiple additional consecutive terms of imprisonment amounting to 35 additional years for various firearms convictions.
According to United States Attorney Gerard M. Karam, Coles’ conviction was the result of a six-year investigation into murders of three individuals 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 crime scene, they found the bodies of Wendy Ann Chaney, 39, Hagerstown, Md, Brandon Cole, 47, Fayetteville, PA, and Phillip Matthew Jackson, 36, Mercersburg, PA, in a barn on victim Jackson’s property. All were shot. 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 once in the neck. 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.
Coles was tried by a jury in Harrisburg in April 2022, and convicted on all 16 counts of the indictment, to include interstate travel to commit murder, murder of a witness, and drug trafficking offenses. The evidence established that Wendy Chaney was in a relationship with Kevin Coles and a coconspirator and had been previously assisting both with their drug distribution operation. Coles, the coconspirator, and co-defendant Devin Dickerson learned that Chaney was cooperating with federal authorities and contracted for her to be murdered. Co-defendants Jerell Adgebesan and Kenyatta Corbett 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. Chaney was killed to protect the drug trafficking activities of Coles, and his co-conspirators. Jackson and Cole were murdered to prevent them from being witnesses to the crimes of violence that were committed at the Jackson property. The killers never found any money on the property but stole some drugs and firearms.
The following individuals were charged along with Coles as a result of 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;
- Mark Johnson, 35, Baltimore, Maryland, pled guilty to obstructing the grand jury’s investigation and was sentenced to 110 months’ imprisonment;
- Llesenia Woodard, 46, Hagerstown, Maryland, pled guilty to providing false testimony to the grand jury investigating the murders and is awaiting sentencing
- Jerell Adgebesan, age 35, of Baltimore and Hagerstown, Maryland, pled guilty in June 2022 to Hobbs Act robbery and to being an accomplice to the use of a firearm during Hobbs Act robbery. Judge Conner sentenced Adgebesan in February 2023 to life imprisonment and a consecutive 10-year term of imprisonment;
- Torey White, 32, Waynesboro, PA, and Florida, was indicted on multiple counts to include murder of a witness, conspiracy to commit murder, robbery, and firearms offenses. His trial is currently scheduled to commence in May 2023.
- Yolanda Diaz, 31, Hagerstown, was indicted on multiple counts of perjury and obstruction of justice based upon her testimony at the Coles trial. Her trial is currently scheduled for May 2023.
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.
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.
Judy Fernandez, Manager of Analytic Services at LexisNexis Special Services, Inc., (LNSSI) provided expert assistance to investigators and the prosecutors in the areas of analysis, support, and the rendering of her expert opinion.
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 Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.
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.
All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.
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Updated March 20, 2023
Project Safe Neighborhoods