Baltimore man sentenced to life in jail for 2016 Mercersburg killings of federal witness

05 December 2023- The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Johnny Jenkins-Armstrong, age 26, of Baltimore, Maryland, was sentenced on December 4, 2023, to life imprisonment for his role in the June 25, 2016 murders of three individuals in Mercersburg, Franklin County, one of whom was cooperating with state and federal drug investigators. The sentence was imposed by United States District Court Judge Christopher C. Conner, who also sentenced Jenkins-Armstrong to a consecutive 20-year term of imprisonment on a companion robbery charge.  

According to United States Attorney Gerard M. Karam, Corbett’s conviction was the result of a seven-year investigation into three murders that occurred on June 25, 2016, on a property along Welsh Run Road in Mercersburg, Franklin County. When Pennsylvania State Police officers were called to the scene, they found the bodies of Wendy Ann Chaney, 39, Hagerstown, Md, Brandon Cole, 47, Fayetteville, PA, and Phillip Matthew Jackson, 36, Mercersburg, PA, in a barn on victim Jackson’s property. All were shot. The three victims had their hands zipped-tied behind their backs and had been set on fire. Jackson and Cole were shot once in the head. Chaney was shot twice, once in the back and once in the back of her neck. Wendy Chaney and Brandon Cole were already dead when the police responded to the scene.  Phillip Jackson was transported to York Hospital where he died shortly after arrival.

The evidence previously presented at Jenkins-Armstrong’s guilty plea and earlier related proceedings established that Wendy Chaney was in a relationship with co-defendants Kevin Coles and Torey White and had been previously assisting both with their drug distribution operation. Coles, White, co-defendant Devin Dickerson and co-defendant Kenyatta Corbett, also a heroin trafficker in Hagerstown and areas of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, learned that Chaney was cooperating with federal authorities and contracted for her to be murdered. Corbett, and co-defendant Jerell Adgebesan who worked for Corbett recruited members of a Baltimore based gang known as the Black Guerilla Family and others from Baltimore to include Jenkins-Armstrong to travel to the Jackson property to kill Wendy Chaney. Adgebesan knew these individuals from Baltimore. The killers were promised that they could take as payment $20,000 that was to be in a safe in the barn and any drugs and firearms that they could locate on the Jackson property. Once there, the killers encountered not only Wendy Chaney but also Brandon Cole and Phillip Jackson. The victims had their hands bound behind their backs with zip-ties, all were shot execution style and their bodies set on fire. Jenkins-Armstrong shot victim Chaney once in the back while co-defendant Johnson shot her in the back of the neck. Chaney was killed to protect the drug trafficking activities of Corbett, Coles, White, Dickerson, and others. Jackson and Cole were murdered to prevent them from being witnesses to the crimes of violence that were committed at the Jackson property. The killers never found any money on the property but stole some drugs and firearms.

The following individuals were charged along with Corbett as a result of the investigation:

  • Jerell Adgebesan, age 35, of Baltimore and Hagerstown, Maryland, was sentenced to life imprisonment for participating in the murder of three people including a federal witness;
  • Devin Dickerson, age 31, Hagerstown, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute heroin and crack cocaine and was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment;
  • Torey White, age 32, Waynesboro, PA, was convicted by a federal jury in May of 2023 of three counts of first-degree murder. His conviction is on appeal;
  • Michael Buck, age 30, Hagerstown, pleaded guilty to Hobbs Act robbery and to being an accomplice to the use of a firearm during Hobbs Act robbery and is awaiting sentencing;
  • Nicholas Preddy, age 29, Baltimore, pleaded guilty to attempting to kill a witness and was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment;
  • Kenyatta Corbett, age 41, of Hagerstown and Baltimore, was sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the murders and a consecutive 20 year term of imprisonment on a Hobbs Act robbery charge. Corbett pled guilty to those charges;
  • Terrance Lawson, age 31, Baltimore, sentenced to time served for attempting to intimidate a witness;
  • Tyrone Armstrong, age 30, Baltimore, sentenced to time served for attempting to intimidate a witness; and
  • Christopher Johnson, age 31, Baltimore, Maryland, pleaded guilty to multiple counts including murder for hire and is awaiting sentencing;   
  • Mark Johnson, 35, Baltimore, Maryland, pled guilty to obstructing the grand jury’s investigation and was sentenced to 110 months’ imprisonment;
  • Llesenia Woodard, 46, Hagerstown, Maryland, pled guilty to providing false testimony to the grand jury investigating the murders and is awaiting sentencing
  • Kevin Coles, Kevin Coles, age 36, of New York, NY and Hagerstown, Maryland, was found guilty in April 2022 of multiple crimes, including murder for hire, robbery, and drug trafficking, and was sentenced to multiple consecutive life sentences;
  • Yolanda Diaz, 31, Hagerstown, Md, indicted on multiple counts of perjury and obstruction of justice based upon her testimony at the Coles trial. Her trial is currently scheduled for February 2024.

Joshua Davis, age 30, previously pled guilty to participating in the conspiracy to locate and kill an individual believed to be cooperating with federal authorities in the investigation of the triple murders. Davis was sentenced to serve 100 months’ imprisonment.

The following federal, state and local law enforcement agencies participated in the investigation:  Drug Enforcement Administration Harrisburg Resident Office; Pennsylvania State Police, Chambersburg; Pennsylvania State Police, Troop H; Franklin County Drug Task Force; Franklin County Adult Probation; Pennsylvania State Probation and Parole; Hagerstown Police Department, Criminal Investigation Division; Drug Enforcement Administration, Hagerstown Resident Office; Washington County Narcotics Task Force; Drug Enforcement Administration, Baltimore District Office, Strike Force Group 1; Maryland State Police Homicide Unit; Baltimore Police Department Narcotics, Fugitive And Homicide Units; Baltimore County Police Department Narcotics and Gang Unit; Federal Bureau of Investigation Evidence Management Unit, Quantico, VA; US Marshal’s Service Harrisburg, PA and Phoenix, AZ; Franklin County District Attorney’s Office; United States Attorney’s Office, District Of Maryland; and the Washington County State’s Attorney’s Office.