Allegheny County police officially charged 2 suspects in the ambush murders of 5 members of the same family in Wilkinsburg, PA. An unborn baby was the 6th victim of the senseless murders that shocked the nation.
Police say Cheron Shelton, pictured above center, and his accomplice Robert Thomas 27, shot and killed the 5 adults during a backyard cookout on March 9.
Investigators built their case using phone records, surveillance video, and statements from informants at the Allegheny County Jail, where both suspects have been inmates for months on unrelated charges.
Shelton reportedly told Thomas he wanted to shoot more family members at the funeral, according to the Post-Gazette.
“I’m trying to treat them like the Jews; I’m trying to eliminate their whole Blood lines,” suspect Shelton told Thomas, according to a jailhouse informant.
Authorities believe Lamont Powell, who survived the shooting, was the primary target.
“Lamont Powell was somebody they had been looking for,” said Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. during a news conference Thursday.
But the prosecutor's case is not iron-clad.
Defense attorneys for both men question how investigators culled statements from jailhouse informants when their clients have been housed in solitary confinement for months.
“It’s my understanding he had limited, if any, contact with other inmates or even jail personnel," said defense attorney Casey White, who represents Thomas.
Randall McKinney, who represents Shelton, said, “If the district attorney’s office intends to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that Cheron Shelton is guilty of this horrific crime based on unnamed jailhouse ‘witnesses’ who had no access to my client, a complete lack of forensic evidence or firearms connecting my client to the crime and no eyewitnesses to the event, I’m confident Mr. Shelton will be found not guilty.”
The deceased victims are siblings Chanetta Powell, 25, Brittany Powell, 27, and Jerry Michael Shelton, 35, and their cousins Tina Shelton, 37, and Shada Mahone, 26. Chanetta Powell was 8 months pregnant with a baby boy. The family dog was also killed.
One gunman approached the backyard from the rear and fired into the air, sending the victims fleeing toward a back porch, where a second gunman sprayed them with a Russian style AK-47 assault rifle.
“[The victims] were herded there on the porch. It was just horrible,” said federal agent Chris Taylor, whose agency assisted local police with the investigation.
Brittany Powell’s daughter, Tamorroa, 7, and Chanetta Powell’s children, 8-month-old Chloe and Jaron, 6, were inside the house and survived the massacre.
Thanks to loyal reader Lovezoe for the tip.