NEW YORK -- The three suspects charged in the March 28 murder of Lost Boyz rapper Freaky Tah were affiliated with a "wannabe" rap group called the Hellraisers, and Freaky Tah's death was not the first to result from an apparent feud between the two groups, police said Thursday.
All three suspects were charged with second-degree murder and illegal possession of a weapon, police said.
Kelvin Jones, 29 of Albany, N.Y., is accused of being the gunman, and a source close to the investigation said he has confessed to the crime. Ryan Fritch, 24, of Queens, is alleged to have driven the van used in the incident, and Rasheem Fletcher, 22, is alleged to have provided the van.
The feud that resulted in the death of Freaky Tah (born Raymond Rogers) can be traced back at least to November, when a member of the Lost Boyz was robbed, the source said. The source declined to identify which member was the victim, but said it was not Freaky Tah. He also said it "was not the first time members of the group had been robbed."
After the robbery, according to the source, someone police believe was a "hanger-on" in the Lost Boyz camp attempted to retaliate by shooting a man named Michael Saunders, who was a member of the Hellraisers camp. But Saunders, who was killed in the December shooting, actually had no involvement in the robbery, according to police.
The source said police don't believe the Lost Boyz themselves ordered or approved of Saunders' killing, which he called the work of an affiliate who might have been trying to impress the group. The case is still under investigation.
Saunders was the half-brother of Kelvin Jones, who is accused of being the gunman in the Freaky Tah murder.
After Saunders was shot, "Jones basically [went] looking for this guy -- he looks for him for months, [but] he cannot find this guy," the source said. "He knows one thing -- he's affiliated or friends with the Lost Boyz."
After Jones heard the Lost Boyz and their friends would be attending a party March 27 at a Sheraton Hotel, he recruited Fritch and Fletcher to join him in staking out the party from a van outside the hotel, according to the source. Police are still seeking a fourth suspect who was in the van, the source said.
The party cleared out as the evening stretched into the early morning of March 28, and Jones, wearing a ski mask, left the van and walked into a crowd outside the hotel, police said. In his confession to police, Jones said he chose Freaky Tah as his target because he mistakenly believed the rapper was a cousin of the man who shot Saunders, according to the source.
Three days after Freaky Tah's death, a man named Roger Paggent, who also was affiliated with the Hellraisers, was shot dead in Ozone Park, Queens. Police are investigating whether that shooting was in retaliation for Freaky Tah's murder, although the source said the three surviving Lost Boyz are not under suspicion.
Patrick Timlin, a commanding officer who supervised the investigation, said at a press conference Thursday that all three suspects in Freaky Tah's killing have criminal records.
Fletcher's background included convictions on drug and weapons charges. Fritch had a record of similar convictions and was apprehended when he reported to his parole officer, Timlin said. Jones has been convicted of robbery and on weapons and drug charges.
Fletcher pleaded not guilty to murder and weapons charges over the weekend and was ordered held without bail. The other two suspects, who were arrested this week, are expected to be arraigned Friday afternoon (April 9).
As for the Hellraisers, the source said, "there's [really] no such group." He said they could be more accurately described as "a group of guys who are trying to put a rap group together."
Queens County District Attorney Judge Richard A. Brown called Freaky Tah's murder "the senseless killing of an accomplished entertainer" and praised police for their work in solving the case.
Wendy Washington, a publicist for the Lost Boyz' record label, said Friday that the group and the label had no comment on any aspect of the case.