Akron police detectives on Thursday arrested two men accused in last month’s execution-style killing of four people inside a Chapel Hill-area townhouse.
In custody are Derrick Brantley, 21, and Deshanon Haywood, 21. The Akron men are each charged with four counts of aggravated murder and four counts of aggravated robbery.
They are accused in the April 18 shooting deaths of Ronald Roberts, 24; Kem Rashad Delaney, 23; Maria Nash, 19; and Kiana Welch, 19.
Each victim was shot multiple times in the head. Their bodies were found in the basement of a Kimlyn Circle townhouse leased by Roberts’ sister.
Lt. Detective David Whiddon said robbery of one victim appears to be at least the initial motive for the two suspects visiting the townhouse. Brantley and Haywood were acquaintances of Roberts and Delaney, he said.
All four men were in the apartment for a period of time before the women arrived, Whiddon said. Why the robbery turned to murder, detectives do not yet understand. The victims were dead for some time before their bodies were found.
“Something happened to make it worse than robbery,” he said. “We don’t know what it was, but something happened inside that apartment when the suspects were in there.”
Brantley and Haywood were identified as potential suspects early on in the investigation, Whiddon said. He credited the public with providing many leads.
Detectives got a break in the case in the past week that fortified their investigation so that charges could be brought, he said.
“There was a lot of stuff coming in,” he said. “It helped a lot.”
Whiddon would not comment in detail on the evidence collected, but said he’s “very confident” of the suspects’ involvement. The investigation is ongoing, he said.
He did say the crime scene was one of the most violent he has witnessed. Each victim was shot at close range, some multiple times.
“It was a violent scene down in the basement of that address,” Whiddon said. “There was a lot of evidence recovered indicative of a lot of gunfire. … It was bad. It was brutal.”
Detectives broke news of the arrests to the victims’ family members Wednesday.
Kem Delaney, 53, a former Akron resident now living in Detroit, said he had confidence in Akron police and faith in God that whoever was responsible for his son’s death would be brought to justice. He also trusted that people who knew something would come forward and offer information to police.
“I had no doubt it would be handled in God’s time,” the father said.
The elder Delaney, who said he went to North High School with some of each suspect’s older relatives, recounted how he dressed and shaved his son’s beard in preparation for his funeral.
He also reflected on his son’s lifelong friendship with Roberts. He said both young men might have received money from college financial aid or refunds recently, which could have made them robbery targets.
Delaney said both suspects should face the harshest punishment allowable by law. In this case, the allegations could lead to a death-penalty indictment once Summit County prosecutors and a grand jury review the evidence.
“I’m not an eye-for-eye [person], but it is what it is,” Delaney said. “So, if I have anything to say, I definitely think it would be the death penalty or at least life without parole.”
April Roberts-Gilbert, the mother of Ronald Roberts, said her son was friends with Brantley when they were younger, and she remained friends with the suspect’s family. Despite that relationship, she said the death penalty would be appropriate.
“I want it to be death. I really do,” she said, her voice cracking as she began to weep during an interview Thursday. “They say an eye for an eye. It’s sad. It really is. They’re only 21 years old, but my son doesn’t have his life anymore, and I feel like, ‘Hey, you didn’t care about mine. Why should I care about yours? You didn’t care about those four people inside that house.’
“It’s heartbreaking because I know [Brantley], my son knew [him],” she added. “I just want justice to be served. They took four lives for nothing, for absolutely nothing.”
Roberts-Gilbert had held two vigils since the shooting, one as recently as Saturday to mark the one-month anniversary of the shooting. Her hope was to keep the case in the minds of the people and police detectives.
“I never gave up hope,” she said. “I’m so grateful to the Akron Police Department for what they’ve done, because we really needed closure, and my son can rest peacefully now.”
Her message at the vigils also has been a call for peace and the end of violence that has plagued the African-American community in Akron.
“It’s terrible; it really is,” she said. “And it keeps going on with killings. They don’t realize how many families they actually hurt.”
Regina Cheatham, Nash’s aunt, joined other victims’ family members who gave thanks to police detectives and to God. She said the news of the arrests was overwhelming and an answer to many prayers.
“Unfortunately, it shattered a lot of lives, but justice has been done,” she said. “And we thank God for that because it makes this easier. But we still love and miss Maria with everything we have. ”
The family of Welch could not be reached for comment.
Initial hearing scheduled
Brantley and Haywood have been jailed on obstruction of justice charges since late April, after detectives say they provided false information during the homicide investigation. On Thursday, those charges were dismissed during a brief hearing in Akron Municipal Court.
The suspects are scheduled to appear in court today for an initial hearing on the murder and robbery charges.
Joseph Gorman, who represents Haywood, said his client will plead not guilty. He declined to discuss the case.
“It would not be fair to comment on the police investigation without first reviewing it thoroughly,” he said.
Brantley’s attorney, John Greven, said he had not seen any of the evidence and could not immediately comment. He said his client will plead not guilty.
At the time of the April shooting, Brantley was free on bond awaiting trial on felony charges of heroin trafficking.
Haywood was paroled from prison in February 2012 after serving less than half of a two-year sentence he received for trafficking cocaine and heroin possession. He violated parole in February and was sentenced to 45 days of house arrest, court records show.