Three 19-year-old’s are believed to be behind the brutal shootings that claimed the lives of Nia Haqq and Michael Muchioki last weekend…
A Jersey City woman whose brother was charged in the execution-style killings of two men earlier this year was among three teens arrested today for a similarly ruthless double-slaying: Sunday’s killings of a young couple as they returned home from their engagement party.
Darmelia Lawrence, 19, who sought to provide an alibi for her brother after his February arrest, was charged with felony murder, armed robbery and weapons counts in the shooting deaths of Michael Muchioki, 27, and Nia Haqq, 25, who were buried together in a Linden cemetery today afternoon.
Two of Lawrence’s friends — Latonia Bellamy and Shiquan Bellamy, thought to be cousins — also were charged. Both are 19 and from Jersey City.
Lawrence and Latonia Bellamy were each ordered held on $1 million bail during an appearance in the Central Judicial Court in Jersey City.
Shiquan Bellamy has been in custody since Tuesday, when he was picked up for questioning in the killings and was found to have drugs, a violation of his parole from an earlier drug case. Today, he was ordered held in lieu of $2 million bail.
Shiquan Bellamy’s arrest, as well as forensic evidence and phone records, led to a break in the case and charges against the teens, authorities said.
Muchioki, a software engineer who grew up in Jersey City, and Haqq, an associate producer for an affiliate of the Nickelodeon television network, were returning home from their engagement celebration in New Brunswick around 3 a.m. Sunday when the suspects allegedly robbed them and shot them execution-style.
Muchioki suffered a shotgun blast to the back of the head. His fiancee was shot in the back of the head with a pistol, Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio said. The killers stole gift cards the couple had received at the party, along with cell phones and Haqq’s engagement ring.
The crime echoed in brutality, if not in precise detail, to the double-murder allegedly carried out by Lawrence’s brother two months earlier. In that case, Ronald “Diddy” Lawrence, 21, and another man executed two men with gunshots to the head in what DeFazio previously called a “premeditated and planned” robbery.
Today’s arrests were announced as hundreds of mourners crowded into Monumental Baptist Church in Jersey City for Muchioki’s memorial service. Deputy Mayor Kabili Tayari broke the news inside the church, drawing thunderous applause from those gathered inside.
“We’re happy,” Muchioki’s mother, Sandra, said of the arrests. “We are so thankful.”
Haqq’s mother, Majeeda Haqq, called the charges a first step in what she expects to be a long march toward closure.
“I’m relieved, but I won’t be totally relieved until we go to trial and we get some answers,” she said.
Nia Haqq’s funeral service was held Thursday at Newark Symphony Hall. She and Muchioki, who were to be married in Aruba next April, were instead buried side by side this afternoon at Linden’s Rosedale Cemetery. Their families placed matching wedding bands on their fingers.
That was a nice touch that the families of Nia and Michael had them buried side by side. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their loved ones.
R.I.P. Nia Haqq and Michael Muchioki
Hardened criminals at 19 killing innocent people execution style. SMH.