Ruscombmanor Township brothers Maurice Adrian Wilkins, 32, and Michael Alan Wilkins, 37, have been charged in the December murders of Rafael Alequin and Dario Mclemore and the kidnapping and murder of Jennifer Velez-Negron.
Both are charged with three counts of murder, three counts of criminal conspiracy to commit murder and kidnapping.
The incident began on Dec. 4, 2012 on the 1100 block of Franklin Street in Reading. Officer Tina Fallstitch was on patrol when she heard two gunshots. She saw a black Nissan Altima double parked on the north side of the street. She saw one male in the car, later identified as Alequin, who died from multiple gunshot wounds and one man on the street, later identified as Mclemore, who was killed from a single gunshot wound to the chest.
“From the lengthy investigation and speaking to numerous witnesses, we learned that Maurice and Michael Wilkins were involved in the shooting on Franklin Street and were responsible for those deaths,” said Berks County District Attorney John Adams.
“We have obtained information that Maurice and Michael Wilkins were involved in the murder of Jennifer Velez and that the two had participated in torturing her and subsequently murdering her,” Adams said. “She was kidnapped and tortured here in Reading.”
The Berks and Lehigh County District Attorney’s offices believe that Velez set up a drug deal between the two groups of men that resulted in the murder. Prosecutors say she would have been considered a witness to the murder because she set it up.
Later in December, Velez was allegedly kidnapped by the Wilkins brothers, tortured and her corpse was set on fire in Salisbury. Police pronounced her dead at the scene.
“The cause of death,(based) on the autopsy,(was she) died due to a combination of asphyxia, obstruction and internal injuries,” Adams said.
Adams later mentioned that strangulation due to asphyxia could not be excluded and that it is believed she died before being set on fire.
Velez was quickly identified through DNA that was provided from her family and a tattoo on her neck that read “JAVI.”
Velez may have been an eye witness to the Franklin Street shootings, but the investigation was ongoing and Velez did not reach out to police before she died.
Lehigh County District AttorneyJames Martin believes that the investigation was greatly helped by a new initiative in Lehigh County called The Lehigh County Regional Intelligence and Investigation Center.
“This is a center that has been a work in progress for the past six or seven years,” Martin said.
The center is a web-based network that provides access to more than three and a half million police sensitive reports in the county. It also provides access to prison records.
“That access was instrumental to develop leads in this investigation,” Adams said.
He said that it lead to cell phone data which helped track the planning of the crime and that the leads made during the investigation would be made more clear as the case continues to trial.
“The cell phone data was particularly important and establishing the dumping of the body of Jennifer Velez in Lehigh County and the commission of the crime here in Berks County,” Martin said.
Adams believes that the murder of Velez was one of the most brutal murders that has been investigated in Lehigh and Berks counties in a long time.
The Berks County District Attorney’s Office believes that Velez knew the Wilkins brothers prior to the set-up drug deal but did not provide information on their specific relationship, but did say that they knew each other.
The prosecutors believe that there are other individuals in Berks County and in Lehigh County that have information and are asking anyone who may have information that will help the prosecution to come forward.
Both men will be charged and tried in Berks County. The District Attorney’s office would not comment on whether or not they would be trying to get the death penalty for the Wilkins brothers.
Michael Wilkins was arrested Monday, April 8, at 7:38 p.m. on Route 12 and 662 in Ruscombmanor Township after an arrest warrant was signed for his arrest. Adams said that he was arrested without incident. The investigators had been working on locating him and found him in the area.
Martin says that there is no information to suggest that the crime was a part of a gang activity or that either of the brothers had a gang affiliation.
Maurice Wilkins was sentenced to a term of five to 13 years in Berks County Court after being convicted of persons not to possess fire arms from a previous incident, possession of cocaine and receiving stolen property. Maurice was arrested in January for the murders of Alequin and Mclemore.
Both men are also being charged for not being allowed to possess a fire arm as they both have extensive criminal histories. Police say that Maurice did not provide any information that led to his brother’s arrest.