When Jamell “YNW Melly” Demons and his friend Cortlen “YNW Bortlen” Henry were arrested in February 2019 for allegedly murdering their crewmates Christopher “YNW Juvy” Thomas Jr. and Anthony “YNW Sakchaser” Williams, the entire rap world was in shock. Did a rising star really kill two of his closest friends? Why?
Today, nearly 20 months after the arrests, the case against Melly and Bortlen is slowly proceeding along. Melly is still behind bars in Fort Lauderdale, after catching a case of COVID-19 in the spring (he was the second person in the whole jail to test positive for the virus). The last time the public saw Melly was at a court hearing all the way back in March. He appeared happy, smiling at his mother, brother, and other supporters.
Melly pled not guilty back in March to two charges of first degree murder. If he’s found guilty, it could mean the death penalty.
The case dates back to an incident on October 26, 2018, when Juvy and Sakchaser were killed in what Bortlen and Melly claimed was a drive-by shooting. A report filed by Miramar PD detective Mark Moretti lays out what the cops found while investigating. Contrary to Melly and Bortlen’s claims, the detective says, “The evidence shows the initial lethal shot occurred from inside the vehicle and was initiated from the left rear passenger side,” where Melly was sitting. In the aftermath, cops claim, Melly and Bortlen staged a fake drive-by. “The evidence shows that Thomas and Williams were shot inside the vehicle and then the surviving occupants (Henry and Demons) exited the vehicle and then intentionally shot into the vehicle from the exterior,” the document reads.
Despite the fact that Melly has been denied bond and forced to stay behind bars, some people familiar with the case are confident he’ll ultimately prevail. Bradford Cohen, an attorney who represented Melly in the early stages of the case (but no longer does), tells Complex, “In terms of the evidence that I've reviewed, I think there are some substantial questions and substantial areas that I think are very large holes for the prosecution that they're going to have to fill, and I think that benefits the defense of Melly.”
Melly’s lawyers agree. In a document filed in May 2019, they laid out the strengths of their case. “[T]here has been no ‘murder weapon,’ no witness placing a gun in Mr. Demon’s [sic] hands, no witness placing Mr. Demon’s [sic] in the acutal vehicle at the time of the alleged shooting. There is no DNA that would implicate Jamell, there is no indication of a motive. There is also no evidence that if Jamell was present in the vehicle, that he had anything to do with the killing of his 2 best friends.”
While there isn’t another hearing in the case until January, there have been a few developments in recent months. Here’s a rundown.