Hagerstown man found guilty in drug-related murders, leaving three dead in Welsh Run

Staff reports

A man with Hagerstown and New York City ties behind the drug-related killings of his girlfriend and two men in a Mercersburg area barn nearly six years ago was found guilty last week in federal court in Harrisburg, Pa.

Kevin Coles, 36, whom authorities listed as being from both New York, N.Y, and Hagerstown, was found guilty 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 jury deliberated for three hours before rendering the verdict.

All three victims had their hands zip-tied behind their backs and were shot once in the head and set on fire, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Wendy Ann Chaney, 39, Hagerstown, who also was shot once in the back, and Brandon Cole, 47, of Fayetteville, Pa., were found dead in the barn on Welsh Run Road in Montgomery Township when Pennsylvania State Police responded at 11:34 p.m. June 25, 2016. Phillip Matthew Jackson, 36, who lived at the property, was flown to York Hospital, where he died shortly after arrival.

Three people died after being shot in this barn on Welsh Run Rod in Montgomery Township on June 25, 2016. On April 28, 2022, Kevin Coles, 36, of New York, N.Y, and Hagerstown was found guilty of multiple crimes related to their deaths, including murder for hire, robbery and drug trafficking in U.S District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg.

“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,” Thomas Hodnett, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Philadelphia Field Division, said in the news release. “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.”

Eleven other people from Hagerstown, Waynesboro and Baltimore were charged in connection with the murders.

Contract for murder

The jury was shown that Chaney was in a relationship with Coles and had been previously assisting him with his drug distribution operation, the news release said. 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 Guerrilla Family and others from Baltimore to travel to the Jackson property to kill Chaney. The killers encountered not only Chaney but also Cole and Jackson, who were murdered to prevent them from being witnesses.

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The killers were promised they could take $20,000 that was supposed to be in a safe in the barn and any drugs and firearms they found on Jackson's property as payment. The killers never found any money, according to the news release.

The jury was also shown that Coles was involved in trafficking significant amounts of heroin and crack cocaine in Chambersburg, Hagerstown and elsewhere. The jury found that two people Coles distributed heroin to suffered serious bodily injury when they overdosed on the heroin he supplied and had to be resuscitated by using Narcan.

The jury also found Coles guilty of using, brandishing and discharging a firearm during and in relation to his drug-trafficking activities.

His sentencing has not yet been scheduled, but the penalty under federal law for several of the offenses is mandatory life imprisonment.

Eleven other people charged

The status of the other people charged in connection with the investigation:

  • Devin Dickerson, 31, Hagerstown, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute heroin and crack cocaine and is awaiting sentencing.
  • Kenyatta Corbett, 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, 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, 29, Baltimore, pleaded guilty to attempting to kill a witness and is awaiting sentencing.
  • Johnnie Jenkins-Armstrong, 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, 31, Baltimore, sentenced to time served for attempting to intimidate a witness.
  • Tyrone Armstrong, 30, Baltimore, sentenced to time served for attempting to intimidate a witness.
  • Christopher Johnson, 31, Baltimore, pleaded guilty to multiple counts including murder for hire and is awaiting sentencing.
  • Joshua Davis, 30, previously pleaded guilty to participating in the conspiracy to locate and kill an individual believed to be cooperating with federal authorities. Davis was sentenced to serve 100 months in prison.
  • Two other people, Torey White, 30, of Waynesboro and Jerell Adgebesan, 32, of Baltimore, are charged in connection with the investigation and are awaiting trial.

Multiple agencies involved in investigation

“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,” Pennsylvania State Police Troop H Capt. Mark Magyar said in the news release. “The total team effort is a testament to what is needed to successfully investigate and prosecute a case of this magnitude.”

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.; U.S. Marshal’s Service Harrisburg and Phoenix, Ariz.; 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.

The case is part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods Program, the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts; the Heroin Initiative targeting heroin traffickers operating in the Middle District of Pennsylvania to combat the nationwide epidemic regarding the use and distribution of heroin; and the extensive investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force identified as “Retribution for Welsh Run.”