READING, Pa. - Two brothers have been arrested in the brutal killings of two men in Reading and a witness to the double homicide, whose body was later found burned near Allentown.
Michael Allen Wilkins, 37, and Maurice Adrian Wilkins, 32, both of Ruscombmanor Twp., Berks Co., have been charged with three counts of first and third degree murder and related offenses, officials announced Tuesday.
"With these two arrests, I'm hopeful we can bring justice to the victim's families," said Berks County District Attorney John Adams.
The Wilkins brothers, police said, shot and killed Rafael Alequin, of Cumru Twp., Berks Co., and Dario McLemore, of Palmer Twp., Northampton Co., in the 1100 block of Franklin Street in Reading on Dec. 4.
The killings, according to court documents, stemmed from an apparent drug deal. The two victims ripped off Michael Wilkins by giving him fake cocaine in exchange for $700, officials said.
The men then kidnapped Jennifer Velez-Negron, who set up the deal between Michael Wilkins and the two homicide victims, according to court documents.
The brothers tortured Velez-Negron, 26, of Reading, inside a city home. According to court documents, Velez-Negron was bound to a chair with duct tape, gagged with a cloth and forced to ingest heroin. The brothers reportedly recorded the torture with a cell phone.
The brothers then drove her to neighboring Lehigh County, doused the body with gasoline and set her on fire, officials said.
"She was kidnapped and tortured in Reading, taken to Salisbury Township, where her body was found engulfed in flames," said Adams.
The gruesome discovery was made on Dec. 27, authorities said. She was found with her legs tied together and a cloth secured in her mouth with what appeared to be duct tape, according to court documents.
"This was probably one of the most brutal murders that we have investigated in this county [Berks] and Lehigh County in quite some time," said Adams.
According to investigators, both brothers have an extensive criminal background, and neither was eligible to possess a firearm.
Maurice Wilkins was arrested at his home in Ruscombmanor Township and charged in the double homicide on Jan. 5; Michael Wilkins was arrested Monday evening at Routes 12 and 662, Adams said.
"The cooperation that existed between the Berks County investigators and the Lehigh County investigators was really first rate," said Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin.
Martin also credited the Lehigh County Regional Intelligence Investigation Center for helping to solve the case.
"This is a center that has been under development and a work in progress for six or seven years. It is a web-based security law enforcement network, which provides access in Lehigh County to over 3-and-a-half million police incident reports for all the police departments in the county," Martin said.
In addition to the first and third degree murder charges, the Wilkins brothers have been charged with criminal conspiracy, aggravated assault, possessing instruments of a crime and kidnapping.
"We believe there are other individuals in our community and in Lehigh County who have information in regard to this incident," said Adams.
Authorities are looking for anyone with information about the case to come forward and tell what they know by contacting Crime Alert Berks County at 877-373-9913.
Allentown, PA 18102