YNW Melly on trial: Shooting reconstruction expert says ‘Juvy’ was shot at close range

Broward Sheriff's Office Sgt. Christopher Williams testified during YNW Melly's trial that his analysis showed there shots fired from inside and outside of the Jeep Compass. (Broward County Court public records)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A shooting reconstruction expert was testifying against Florida rapper YNW Melly on Wednesday in Broward County court. He said that his investigation showed two YNW Collective rappers were shot from inside the Jeep where they died.

Assistant State Attorney Kristine Bradley called Sgt. Christopher Williams to the stand during the trial to explain how he used the existing evidence to estimate the trajectory of the bullets fired in and out of a Jeep Compass.

Cortlen “Bortlen” Henry, who was driving the gray Jeep Compass, told a Miramar detective that they were the victims of a drive-by shooting on Oct. 26, 2018, in Broward County.

“My determination was that this was not a drive-by shooting,” Williams said.

Demons’s defense prompted Williams to admit that the prosecution had tasked him with investigating if there was a drive-by shooting, and this required testing different scenarios.

“The shooting happened from somebody inside the car,” Williams said adding that “the angles” of the projectiles going into the victims’ bodies “do not change.”

Bradley accused Jamell “Melly” Demons of killing Christopher “Juvy” Thomas Jr., and Anthony “Sakchaser” Williams, and of staging a drive-by shooting with Henry’s help.

Sgt. Williams said Thomas, 21, was shot in the head, at close range on the face, from the left in the “middle of his cheek”— while he was facing forward.

“Part of the wound had an abrasion ring on it,” Sgt. Williams said about the entrance wound. He also cited the “tattoo of the stippling” as evidence.

Earlier in the trial, the jury saw surveillance video showing Demons was in the left rear seat of the Jeep; Williams, 21, was in the front passenger seat; and Thomas was in the right rear seat.

The jury also listened to the medical examiners who performed the autopsy and concluded that both victims suffered fatal shots to the head that had entered from the left side.

Miramar detectives used cell phone data to identify a crime scene near the dead end of Pembroke Road, east of U.S. Highway 27, near the Florida Everglades.

This is where Bradley said Henry and Demons fired at the Jeep Compass and the dead victims in an attempt to stage a drive-by shooting.

A grand jury indicted Demons on Feb. 7, 2019, and he surrendered on Feb. 13, 2019. He and Henry, who is awaiting trial for the alleged coverup, pleaded not guilty.

Deputies have held Demons without bond for over four years. His defense alleged the case is the result of an opportunistic detective who spotted a high-profile case without DNA evidence or a weapon.

If convicted of two counts of premeditated first-degree murder, Demons faces the possibility of life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

Demons grew up in Indian River County’s Gifford community and had an arrest record there and in Lee County, records show. He is in YouTube videos with the victims playing with what appears to be guns, cash, alcohol, and marijuana.

Demons became known as YNW Melly when he released his breakout song “Murder on My Mind” on SoundCloud and on YouTube in 2017. His golden single while later signed with 300 Entertainment made it onto the Billboard Hot 100.

YNW Melly partnered with Kanye West for “Mixed Personalities.” He released “Melly vs. Melvin,” his debut album, in 2019, and his second album “Just a Matter of Slime” — which features Lil Uzi Vert, Kodak Black, and Lil Baby — in 2021.

Coverage of the trial


About the Author:

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.