ST. JOSEPH TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Investigators in southwest Michigan say they were tipped off by U.S. Army officials that the New Year’s Eve murder of a solider was orchestrated by his wife and her lover.
Investigators say 23-year-old Sgt. Tyrone Hassel III had just delivered his wife some food around 11 p.m. when he was gunned down in the driveway of his father’s St. Joseph Township home.
His wife Kemia Hassel was formally charged with first-degree murder Monday. Detectives believe she plotted the murder with Jeremy Cuellar, who is also charged with first-degree murder, according to Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic.
According to Tyrone Hassel’s obituary, he met his wife in the Army and they married in May 2017. They were staying with his father in southwest Michigan while on leave for the holidays. Their 1-year-old son was with them.
Both the Hassels and Cuellar were stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Authorities believe Kemia Hassel and Cuellar were having an affair. Sepic says Cuellar traveled from Fort Stewart to Chicago a few days before New Year’s Eve and waited for Kemia Hassel to tell him when to ambush her husband.
Authorities suspect the two wanted to continue their relationship and reap the Army’s death benefits after the murder.
The prosecutor says local investigators explored numerous leads before officials at Fort Stewart tipped them off to the alleged plot.
“But we said it, though,” Thymisha Simmons, a friend of Tyrone Hassel’s, said. “We said it would not be anyone around in the community because everyone knows him. You know, he’s really known. Everybody likes him. I never knew him to have any enemies, so we said it had to be somebody that was really close to him. And to our surprise, it was his wife.”
While police were hard at work investigating the murder, Kemia Hassel was busy posting on Facebook. On Wednesday, just days before her arrest, she posted about how her husband would have been proud she made the dean’s list. In another post, she lamented being left with the couple’s son. She also posted pictures of the man she allegedly had murdered proposing to her.
There’s also these lines from Tyrone Hassel’s obituary: “He leaves to cherish his memory his loving wife, Kemia Hassel.”
“You have to really watch the ones that are the closest to you,” Simmons said. “It’s always those. You really can’t trust anyone nowadays. You really have to make sure how close you keep someone to you.”
A judge set Kemia Hassel’s bond at $2.5 million with the condition that she wear a GPS tether if released. Her next court hearing is slated for Jan. 23.
Cuellar is also facing a felony firearm charge. He was jailed in Liberty County, Georgia, and is awaiting extradition to Michigan.