DETROIT, MI – Two Detroit men were convicted on Wednesday October 24th, 2018, by a federal jury in Detroit on charges of murder-for-hire, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and oxycodone, and use of a firearm causing death during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime.
Convicted were Deaunta Belcher, 35-years-old, and Andre Watson, 32-years-old, both of Detroit.
The four-week trial was conducted before United States District Judge Avern Cohn.
According to the evidence presented at trial, on September 11, 2015, a drive-by shooting took place outside of They Say restaurant in the Warehouse District of Detroit in which the victim, Devin Wallace, 30, of Novi, Michigan, was killed. The investigation into the shooting determined Deaunta Belcher was part of an intricate drug and fraud scheme throughout Detroit. Belcher and others, including his co-defendant Darnell Bailey and Devin Wallace, obtained cars, apartments, furniture, and other items fraudulently using the identities of drug customers and other victims, and leased those items to drug dealers throughout the city. Belcher and others decided to kill Wallace out of greed so they could assume his role in their fraud and drug conspiracy.
The evidence showed that Belcher and his co-defendant, Darnell Bailey, offered two men, Andre Watson, and Stephen Brown, money, a car, and other compensation to commit the murder. Watson and Brown spent weeks trying to locate Wallace, and on September 11, 2015, Belcher informed Watson and Brown that Wallace would be at They Say. Watson, Brown, and a third man, Billie J. Chambers, drove to They Say where Brown fired toward Wallace twice and Watson shot Wallace 12 times at close range. Nine bullets struck his body, with six bullets entering his head. Wallace died at the scene. Belcher and Bailey told police that Wallace was killed for cooperating with the DEA in a separate drug investigation in an effort to mislead investigators.
The jury also convicted Belcher for obstruction of justice for statements made to Detroit police on September 24, 2015, in which he tried to mislead investigators regarding his relationship with Stephen Brown.
Co-defendants Darnell Bailey, 29-years-old, of Roseville, Billie J. Chambers, 33-years-old, and Stephen Brown, 27-years-old, both from Detroit, previously pleaded guilty to murder-for-hire for their respective involvement in the shooting. Each are awaiting sentencing.
“These defendants carried out a brazen, cold blooded murder in broad daylight near downtown Detroit, and the shooting shocked our community when it was broadcast on the evening news,” United States Attorney Matthew Schneider said. “Thanks to the tireless efforts of the FBI and the Detroit Police Department, the people of Detroit can rest easier knowing these defendants will remain behind bars for the rest of their lives. Eradicating violent crime remains our top priority, and we will continue to work every day so Michiganders can go about their lives without fear of harm.”
“This case demonstrates the violence that accompanies large-scale narcotics trafficking,” said Special Agent in Charge Timothy R. Slater, Detroit Division of the FBI. “With yesterday’s conviction, Deaunta Belcher and Andre Watson have been held accountable for their part in these crimes and the City of Detroit is safer as a result.”
“We certainly appreciate the partnership with the Federal Bureau Investigation Violent Crime Task Force,” said Chief James Craig. “This partnership is yet another example of how we can work together to combat violent crimes in our community and bring offenders to justice.”
The federal offense of murder-for-hire carries a mandatory sentence of life. The offense of use of a firearm causing death during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime carries a sentence of any term of years or life; however, since a firearm was discharged, there is at least a mandatory minimum of ten years up to life. The offense of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and oxycodone carries a maximum sentence of twenty years, and the offense of obstruction of justice carries a maximum sentence of twenty years.
The investigation was a collaboration between Detroit Police and members of the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force.