- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

READING, Pa. (AP) - A man was convicted Tuesday of murder and other charges for the 2012 killings of two men in a drug deal gone bad and for torturing and killing a woman who witnessed the slayings.

Jurors deliberated for about 5½ hours over two days before convicting 41-year-old Michael Wilkins of Ruscombmanor Township on three counts of first-degree murder, three counts of third-degree murder, two counts of conspiracy, three counts of aggravated assault, and one count each of kidnapping and solicitation of first-degree murder, the Reading Eagle (https://bit.ly/1KWd6Gv ) reported.

Prosecutors allege that Wilkins and his brother killed Rafael Alequin, 22, and Dario McLemore, 22, in December 2012 for selling them fake cocaine, then kidnapped and killed 26-year-old Jennifer Velez-Negron because she was part of the deal and witnessed the slayings. Maurice Wilkins, 34, is awaiting trial.

Relatives of the victims said outside the courtroom that they were relieved by the verdict.

“I didn’t know what would happen, but I put my hope in Jehovah,” said Rhonda McLemore, McLemore’s mother.

They said, however, that the verdict does little to ease their pain.

“I don’t think I’ll ever have closure because my son was a part of me and I’ll never have him back,” said Michelle Noe, Alequin’s mother.

Defense attorney Robert J. Kirwan II said in his closing argument that Maurice Wilkins was responsible for the murders and was assisted by friends, not his brother.

He also attacked the credibility of prosecution witnesses, saying that most were former or current prisoners and drug addicts who were trying to help themselves.

The jury will now hear arguments on whether Michael Wilkins should be executed or spend life in prison. Migdalia Sanchez, a sister-in-law of Velez-Negron, said she will be content regardless.

“I’m good with what he’s got,” she said. “Life in prison, so that he can suffer.”

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Information from: Reading Eagle, https://www.readingeagle.com/

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