DA says gang is behind Dumpster killing
In late April, Bethlehem police responded to what they thought was a burning mannequin at the Parkhurst Apartments complex. What they discovered was a grisly horror. It was a human being, later identified as Tyrell Michael Holmes, age 18. He had been stabbed and set afire while still alive, as determined by the presence of smoke in his lungs.
Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli determined that Holmes had been conscious and in extreme pain, and that an accelerant had been used to help burn him alive. No charges have been filed.
But recent court filings in other criminal matters and subsequent media reports point to a Bethlehem gang called Money Rules Everything (MRE).
At July 31 news conference, Morganelli assured the public, “We do not believe that MRE poses a threat to average citizens.” He added, “Their violent criminal activities are generally personal in nature and related to other gang members or individuals who may be competing with the gang in drug distribution.”
Morganelli said MRE was formed by individuals who grew up in Pembroke and Marvine Villages. He describes it as a small local gang consisting of eight confirmed members, three of whom are in custody. It has no connection to larger gangs like the Bloods or the Crips.
The first confirmed MRE member is Alkiohn Dunkins, age 19, a Freedom HS graduate who was honored as an EPC “player of the week” by Lehigh Valley Live in 2015. Dunkins went on to play for Moravian College, but in 2017, he was charged with robbing a fellow student of $1,200 and a mason jar filled with marijuana. Dunkins, who has been released on $75,000 bail, is awaiting trial in September.
Bethlehem police say a man who looks like Dunkins was seen on surveillance video near the scene of a July 5 assault and robbery at Yosko Park on East Sixth Street in Bethlehem.
Zahmire Welcome, age 20, has been charged with robbery and assault of a victim who said his iPhone, a Louis Vuitton wallet and $300 were taken from him by three men who assaulted him. The victim recognized Welcome, who has also been identified as a MRE member.
Welcome is in jail in lieu of $150,000 bail. An Aug. 21 preliminary hearing on the robbery and assault charges is scheduled.
No charges have been filed against Dunkins in connection with the Yosko Park assault and robbery.
MRE is also believed to have been behind the shooting of two people outside Macy’s department store at the Lehigh Valley Mall June 1. Gang member Miles Harper, age 19, has been named by Whitehall Police as the triggerman. He faces two counts of aggravated assault and one count of attempted homicide, and has been jailed in lieu of $1 million bail. His preliminary hearing is set for Aug. 15. One of the victims, a member of a rival gang, fingered both Welcome and Harper.
Harper and another MRE member, Leroy Simpkins, 25, also face charges in Allegheny County for an attempted robbery of watches and gold chains in March.
Morganelli said membership in a criminal gang, defined as an ongoing organization consisting of three or more people engaged in criminal activity, should itself be a crime. He noted that recruiting someone to join a criminal gang is a crime, but membership per se is not, “which makes no sense to me.”
It makes no sense to Bethlehem Police Chief Mark DiLuzio, either. “They are groups of thugs and deserved to be warehoused,” he said.
Morganelli said he’s received lots of calls about this homicide, and said he is “confident we are going to solve this.” But he added, “These crimes are committed in secret.”
Detective Blake Kuntz is leading the homicide investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call him at 610-865-7187.