Chattanooga police on Thursday charged two people in connection with last month's double homicide in which the victims were found in Highland Memorial Gardens cemetery in the Shepherd community.
William Wright, 18, and a 17-year-old male, whose name has not been released because he's a minor, were already in custody for unrelated charges when they were charged with two counts of first-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery in the death of Thomas Holder, 20, and Rayshann Underwood, 17.
Holder and Underwood were found dead in the cemetery on the morning of June 20 by Manny Rico, a former Chattanooga city councilman and owner of a monument engraving company. Rico said he was checking on a monument when he saw the two men lying out in the open. He asked the cemetery caretaker to check on them after they didn't respond when he honked his horn. The caretaker told Rico they were dead and police arrived shortly thereafter.
According to a medical examiner's report obtained by WRCB, Underwood suffered four gunshot wounds — two to his back, one to his lower arm and one to his head. Holder was shot once in the head, according to other reports.
Angela Deloach, Underwood's godmother, was at the cemetery the day he was found dead, and at the time she said she didn't want to believe he had been killed.
"That's just something hard to swallow," she told the Times Free Press.
In the days after their deaths, mourners took to social media, alleging the bodies were intentionally left near Jumoke Johnson's grave. Johnson was a gang kingpin who was shot and killed in another double homicide in January. However, it is unclear how close to Johnson's grave the bodies were found.
The deaths were originally being investigated as gang-motivated because the victims and suspects were validated gang members. Chattanooga police consider someone a validated gang member when they meet certain criteria.
However, Chattanooga Police Department spokeswoman Elisa Myzal said that after further investigation, the motive was determined to be robbery. "The suspects were trying to take the victims' money," and the case is no longer considered gang-motivated. The suspects were in different gangs, she said.
"The investigators involved in this case have worked tirelessly and relentlessly to bring closure for the family," said Chattanooga Police Department Assistant Chief Edwin McPherson at a news conference Thursday. The victims' family members were present at the news conference but asked to not be interviewed.
McPherson said the department wanted to thank the community for helping investigators, and Deputy Chief David Roddy included members of the community in the list of partners the department worked with during the investigation.
"They cooperated, they called in, they gave information," Roddy said. "Everyone worked as partners. Members of our community are coming forward and talking to their law enforcement officers because they want to see the right things done and support their fellow community members."
Sgt. Adam Emery added: "One little tip that we got led to, so to say, the dominoes falling and bringing the rest of the evidence" to make the arrests.
He said there was no evidence at that time that anyone else was involved in the homicides.
Wright was previously arrested June 22 and charged with theft under $1,000, possession of an unlawful firearm and two drug-related charges.
According to his arrest affidavit, Wright, who was a member of the Grape Street Crips gang, had a firearm in his left pocket that had been reported stolen in Walker County, Ga. He also had an assault rifle in his home that had been reported stolen, and he was named as a suspect in the report.
Information on the juvenile suspect has not been released. Myzal said names of minors are usually released if they are charged as an adult. The district attorney's office did not immediately return a request for comment.
Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at email@example.com or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.