The ex-girlfriend of a young Florida rapper about to head into his second trial for the murders of his best friends tells Law&Crime the prosecutor and police involved in the investigation have harassed her incessantly, convinced she knows more than she’s saying.
Jamell Demons, known by his stage name YNW Melly, is set to face his next trial in Broward County, Florida, after his first ended with a hung jury in July. Judge John Murphy declared a mistrial on July 22. Despite 14 hours of deliberation, the jurors said they couldn’t come to a unanimous verdict in the double murder case.
YNW Melly’s retrial is scheduled for October.
Prosecutors accuse YNW Melly and his best friend, Cortlen “YNW Bortlen” Henry, of killing Anthony “YNW Sakchaser” Williams and Christopher “YNW Juvy” Thomas Jr. in October 2018. That’s when Henry showed up at a Miami hospital, claiming the SUV he was driving had been targeted in a drive-by shooting. The car itself was riddled with bullet holes, with Williams and Thomas slumped over dead inside. Both had been shot multiple times, including in the head.
Police searched the area where Henry said the drive-by happened, but couldn’t find any evidence of a shooting. When investigators retrieved surveillance video, they saw YNW Melly, Henry, Williams, and Thomas all leaving a recording studio together. The four friends all can be seen getting into the same SUV. Melly wasn’t in the car when it arrived at the hospital, but prosecutors allege he was the triggerman.
Police charged YNW Melly and Cortlen Henry with two counts of murder each. Henry was granted bail with certain conditions and faces a punishment of life in prison if convicted. Melly has been locked up since his arrest in 2019 and could get the death penalty. Both men have pleaded not guilty.
During YNW Melly’s first trial, one of the most contentious moments in court came early on, when the prosecution called Felicia Holmes to the stand. Holmes is the mother of YNW Melly’s ex-girlfriend, Mariah Hamilton. Hamilton was 17 at the time of the shooting.
Prosecutors alleged that Hamilton was on the phone with Melly after the shooting and may have information about the night in question. They believed her mother, Felicia Holmes, was nearby during the phone call, based on a statement Holmes gave to police in 2018.
However, in a sworn deposition given in December 2022, Holmes gave some different details about that night. She said she doesn’t clearly remember what she told police in 2018.
When questioned, Holmes was confrontational with lead prosecutor Kristine Bradley. Holmes claimed she felt threatened by both the prosecutor’s office and the police department. Bradley tried multiple times to get Holmes to testify about her 2018 statement to police, despite the court ruling that the statement wouldn’t be allowed in. Holmes said over and over again she didn’t remember. The state even made the overture that the defense may be paying the witness to lie, which prompted strong objections from the defense table.
YNW Melly’s attorneys requested a mistrial, saying the jury had been heavily prejudiced by not only the prosecutor inappropriately giving direct testimony, but also the multiple sidebars and recesses taken during the back-and-forth. That motion was eventually denied.
Hamilton and Holmes agreed to sit down for an interview with Law&Crime’s Sidebar podcast, alongside her attorney Christopher Beres. This was the first time Hamilton spoke to the media about the case or trial.
“I’m currently wanted,” Hamilton told Sidebar’s Jesse Weber. “I’ve tried to get the warrant lifted plenty of times but it’s just been a constant battle with my lawyer and the prosecutor. So I’ve just been laying low trying to get the warrant lifted before I could even come in and speak my part.”
She went on to say, “I just want people to know that I’m not running because of any money or anything like that. It’s because I don’t want to go to jail for something that I didn’t do or something that I’m not a part of. I just feel like they’re looking at me wrong and what they’re showing is not true.”
Hamilton said the police first approached her because of her connection to YNW Melly.
“Because I was his girlfriend at the time, so they thought I knew more than what I telling them. Which I didn’t. So they were just harassing me. When the situation first happened, I was threatened. I was 17, about to turn 18. They came to my house, telling me they were going to arrest me on accessory after the fact. My mom didn’t know what to do.”
“I was young and I didn’t have a criminal record, I didn’t have a background. I was trying to go into the military at the time. So I had to tell them what they wanted to hear so they could leave me alone. I thought they would leave me alone, but they didn’t,” Hamilton says.
The young woman filed a complaint against the lead investigator in the case, Miramar Police Detective Mark Moretti.
“When he first came to my house, it was so unexpectedly,” Hamilton explained to Weber. “I had pulled up with my cousin and they were outside my house. I was so confused; I asked my mom what was going on. She said they want to talk to you, you have to talk to them. They’re threatening that you’re going to go to jail, so I was like ‘Oh my gosh.’ I told them my story, I told them what I knew.”
“He told me that I was lying. He told me I knew more than I was telling and that he could arrest me for accessory after the fact. So he wanted me to get on a tape recording and tell him what he wanted me to tell him, which I did. And after that, he said they wouldn’t bother me anymore. [But] they were still calling and texting my mom asking for me. I refused to talk so many times. And I haven’t talked to them since 2019.”
Hamilton claims she and her lawyer have offered to come in and speak with police and the court, but says she was repeatedly threatened with jail time if she “didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear.”
Later in the interview, Hamilton’s mother joined the call. She explained why she was so upset with the prosecution.
“We were forced to tell a story,” Holmes continued. “Are you going to take my 17-year-old daughter to jail? I don’t want my daughter to go to jail for anybody. Get your case together and stop making the witnesses pay for your mistakes.”
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]