Wife of slain Army sergeant charged with premeditated murder

    Tyrone Hassel III, above, was shot and killed outside of a home on Colfax Avenue near Delaware Avenue in St. Joseph Township, Michigan. His wife, Kemia Nekenah Hassel, 22, has been charged with murder. (WWMT/Contributed)

    The wife of a U.S. Army sergeant who was gunned down in his family's driveway on New Year's Eve was arraigned Monday on murder charges before a Berrien County judge.

    Kemia Nekenah Hassel, 22, was charged with first-degree premeditated murder, a life offense without the possibility of parole, in what police said was a plot to kill her husband.

    Kemia Hassel's bond was set at $2.5 million. Because she is able to post bond, the court ordered her to wear a tether and have no contact with the family of Tyrone Hassel III.

    Police said both Kemia Hassel and 24-year-old Jeremy Cuellar, both of whom are active duty members of the Army stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia, were engaged in an extramarital affair and plotted to kill Tyrone Hassel III in order to cash in on his Army death benefits.

    Cuellar is said to have traveled from Georgia to Chicago, where he waited several days before receiving directions from Kemia Hassel on where to ambush Tyrone Hassel III. He also is charged with premeditated murder and felony firearm. He remains in custody in Liberty County, Georgia, and is awaiting extradition proceedings.

    Tyrone Hassel III was found in the driveway of the family's St. Joseph Township home the evening of Dec. 31 with multiple gunshot wounds. He was rushed to a local hospital, where he later died.

    The victim's father, Tyrone Hassel Jr., believes Kemia planned the murder of his son. The father said the couple was at home visiting from Fort Stewart in Georgia for the holidays.

    “Just wondering what type of person she really is because she deceived us all,” said Tyrone Hassel Jr., the victim’s father. “I thought she was a completely different person than who she really is.”

    Hassel Jr. said following his son’s death that Kemia stayed at his home.

    “You gotta understand, man, this is a person that slept in my home. I spent two weeks with this person after she killed my son,” Hassel Jr. said. “I grieved for her more than I grieved for myself because I saw a woman that lost her husband. I’m looking at my grandson, I saw a kid that lost his father. Not only that I just lost my son. It’s tough, man.”

    Prosecutors said Cuellar is awaiting extradition hearings after being arrested and taken to jail in Liberty County, Georgia. He’s facing first-degree premeditated murder and felony firearm charges. Prosecutors said Cuellar is a native of Hinesville, Georgia.

    Kemia is scheduled in court Jan. 29, for a preliminary examination.

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