19-year-old rapper YNW Melly faces possibility of death penalty in double murder case
Jamell Maurice Demons, best known as rapper YNW Melly, is facing the possibility of the death penalty for allegedly murdering two of his friends.
On Monday, TMZ reported that Melly, a 19-year-old rising hip-hop star from Gifford, Florida, has been charged with two counts of first degree murder. The police accuse him of fatally shooting 21-year-old Anthony Williams and 19-year-old Christopher Thomas Jr., best known as the rappers YNW Sakchaser and YNW Juvy, last October. Melly was known to be close friends with the victims.
Prosecutors say Melly and his friend, 20-year-old Cortlen Henry, best known as rapper YNW Bortlen, committed the murders and shot up their own car to make the crime scene resemble a drive-by shooting. In the early hours of October 26, the suspects dropped the victims off at the hospital, where they were pronounced dead.
Melly and Henry claimed the incident was a drive-by shooting, and they were victims as well. However, police found forensic evidence that the initial shots came from inside the vehicle, not outside, originating from the left rear passenger seat. The cops cite surveillance footage that shows the four men getting into the car to leave a recording studio, with Melly getting into that back left seat.
The state of Florida "believes it can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Melly killed his friends for financial gain, the murder was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel, and he committed homicide in a cold, calculated and premeditated manner," reports TMZ. "The State also believes Melly is a criminal gang member."
According to court documents filed on April 18, prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty. Florida is one of 30 states in the US where capital punishment is legal.
Last March, Melly and Bortlen pleaded not guilty to all charges. Jana Thompson, the mother of victim Anthony Williams, told TMZ the plea felt like a "stab in the heart," giving the men's close relationship. In fact, they were so close that Melly got a 'Jana' tattoo on his neck, which is visible in his mugshot.
"We opened up our homes & our hearts to them," Thompson said. "It’s inconceivable that these very people are the ones responsible for this horrifying murder. I will not stand idle and will fight vehemently for justice."
YNW Melly began his rap career by posting songs on Soundcloud at age 15. He is best known for the single Murder On My Mind, which has over 190 million views on YouTube. Last January, he released his second commercial mixtape, We All Shine, while he was incarcerated. The project included the single Mixed Personalities, which featured rap icon Kanye West. The music video, directed by Cole Bennett, has over 54 million views on YouTube.
"A couple months ago I lost my two brothers by violence and now the system want to find justice," Melly wrote on Instagram last February. “Unfortunately a lot of rumors and lies are being said but no worries god is with me and my brother YNW Bortlen." He told fans, "We want y’all to remember it’s a YNW family I love you YNW Sakchaser and YNW Juvy #freeus"