A woman and her boyfriend, both Army soldiers, thought their murder plot couldn’t be figured out if they used Snapchat to hash out the details.
ABC 22 reports that Kemia Hassel, 22, and Jeremy Cuellar, 24, pleaded not guilty in a preliminary hearing at a Michigan court on Wednesday, in connection with the death of U.S. Army Sgt. Tyrone Hassel III, 23.
According to prosecutors, Cuellar ambushed Hassel outside of his family’s St. Joseph, Michigan, home on December 31, shooting him in numerous times. An autopsy reported indicated the victim was shot at least once in the head.
Township Police Officer Mike Lanier testified on Wednesday that Kemia Hassel wrote a sworn statement indicating that she plotted her husband’s murder for months after he started getting in the way with her affair with Cuellar.
Kemia Hassel was apparently unhappily married, but a divorce meant she’d no longer be a beneficiary on his life insurance policy, Lanier testied. The couple married in 2016 and had one child together.
The suspects began messaging each other via Snapchat while stationed in South Korea, thinking that the temporary messages wouldn’t get traced back to them. Snapchat, a multimedia messaging app, deletes messages, videos, and photos automatically after a brief amount of time.
— Robert Littal (@BSO) January 17, 2019
“They talked about them being together, her being unhappy with Sgt. Hassel,” Lanier testified, according to ABC 57. “There was a statement made ultimately that ‘I can handle this.’”
According to investigators, Hassel reportedly directed Cuellar to drive to the Michigan home after Christmas, and shoot Sgt. Hassel dead. Kemia Hassel was reportedly with her husband while he visited family at the residence when the shooting occurred.
Lanier testified that Kemia Hassel told him she had a “50/50 deal” with Cuellar, who she admitted to having an affair with. She allegedly said she leaned on Cuellar for support through her marital issues and in turn, Cuellar told her he could “handle this.”
After staking out the Michigan home for several days, Cuellar allegedly opened fire on Sgt. Hassel as the man walked out of the residence on New Year’s Eve, after visiting his father. The victim had just returned back to the home to bring his wife food, who waited inside, allegedly knowing that her husband would soon be shot.
Cuellar’s lawyer, Edwin Johnson III, questioned whether anyone could actually place his client anywhere near the crime scene when it occurred. The attorney also pushed the prosecution to show evidence the showed Cuellar committed the crime, MLive reports.
“No one saw him at the scene. He was going to give up on this. He wasn’t going to do it. There were several other suspects,” Johnson said.
Kemia Hassel’s attorney, Kaitlin Locke, argued that it was unfair to charge her client with first-degree murder since she wasn’t the one that shot her husband.
Army Specialist Jaquan Hamilton and Army Corporal Tatanya Butler also testified as witnesses at Wednesday’s hearing. They said they knew of Hassel and Cuellar’s affair. One of the witnesses said Cuellar confided about plans to kill Hassel’s husband, and that a $400,000 life insurance benefit that Kemia Hassel would receive was “a plus.”
The murder trial for both suspects is set for April 30. A judge ordered a $2.5 million bond for each. Should either make bond, they’re required wear a GPS monitoring anklet.
Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.
[Feature Photo: Kemia Hassel and Jeremy Cuellar/Police Handout]