ST. JOSEPH TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WNDU) - Kemia Hassel, the wife of a murdered St. Joseph Township soldier, saw her first appearance in court Monday after being charged with premeditated murder of her husband, Tyrone Hassel III.
Jeremy Cuellar and Kemia Hassel
The long arm of the law is cracking down on Kemia Hassel and her man on the side after police say they believed they could get away with murder.
But that confidence has faded, as the judge asked Kemia Hassel if she had read her rights, and she had hardly done that.
“I read some of it.” Kemia said via court video chat.
The care was the opposite on the other side of the video screen as family had a flood of emotions going through their minds.
“It’s pretty tough, man," said Tyrone Hassel Jr., Tyrone Hassel III's father. "For my entire family. We’ve got a big family, and even his mom’s side of the family, it affected everybody. Big time.”
But the main question was why. They knew the obvious answer after Kemia Hassel received $100,000 from the government following Tyrone Hassel III's death.
“Just wondering what type of person she really is, because she deceived us all, and I thought she was a completely different person than who she really is,” Tyrone Hassel Jr. said.
Even her husband didn’t know who she was, as she kept a hidden relationship on the side with Jeremy Cuellar, the man who allegedly shot and killed Sgt. Tyrone Hassel III, which was all on Kemia’s order after Tyrone Hassel III left the house on New Year’s Eve.
"I grieved for her more than I grieved for myself," Tyrone Hassel Jr. said. "I saw a woman who just lost her husband. Looking at my grandson, I saw a kid that just lost his father, you know, not that I just lost my son. It’s tough, man.”
But through all of the confusion, Hassel’s family knows one thing: that Tyrone Hassel III was a good man and he made his family proud in life.
“I mean, he was a soldier," Tyrone Hassel Jr. said. "He was a sergeant. That speaks volumes. That’s what I want everybody to remember him as, as Sgt. Hassel III.”
His family will never see him again, but they’re going to be seeing Kemia Hassel more and more as the trial progresses. She’s being held on a $2.5 million bond and could face life in prison. The family hopes they can at least get some answers as she makes those appearances.
From Berrien County Prosecutor Michael J. Sepic:
On New Year’s Eve at approximately 11:00 pm, Tyrone Hassel III, 23, an active duty US Army sergeant stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia, was shot and killed outside his father’s home on Colfax Avenue in St. Joseph Township.
He and his wife, Kemia Hassel, 22, of Allenhurst, Georgia, also an active duty US Army soldier stationed at Fort Stewart, were residing on Colfax while on leave over the holidays with their 1 year old child. Sgt. Hassel had been at a family gathering on Lincoln Street in the city of Benton Harbor during the evening hours. He returned to the Colfax home around 11:00 pm to bring Kemia some food from the family gathering. After leaving her the food, he was returning to his pickup truck in the driveway of that home to return to Lincoln Street when he was confronted by an assailant who shot and killed him. Investigators explored numerous leads before receiving information from the US Army base at Fort Stewart, Georgia.
Investigation by the Army CID (Criminal Investigation Division) unit at Fort Stewart and follow up investigation by investigators here in Berrien County including officers from the St. Joseph Township Police Department, the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department detective bureau, the Berrien County Homicide Task Force and the Michigan State Police, has led to murder charges against two individuals.
It is alleged that Kemia Hassel and Jeremy Cuellar, also an active duty US Army soldier stationed at Fort Stewart, were in an extramarital relationship and plotted to kill Kemia’s husband, Tyrone. Further, it is alleged Cuellar travelled from Fort Stewart to Chicago several days prior to December 31, waited for directions from Kemia Hassel to ambush Tyrone, and did so finally on New Year’s Eve. The motive for the two to plot Sgt. Hassel’s death may have been to continue their relationship and reap the Army’s death benefit from his murder.
Kemia Hassel is charged with First Degree Premeditated Murder, a life offense without the possibility of parole. Ms. Hassel is in the Berrien County jail. At her arraignment today her bond was set at $2,500,000 with GPS tether. A pre-exam conference is set for Wednesday, January 23, 2019 and a preliminary exam hearing set for Tuesday, January 29, 2019, both at 8:30 am.
Jeremy Cuellar, 24, of Hinesville, Georgia, is also charged with First Degree Premeditated Murder and additionally with Felony Firearm, a 2 year consecutive sentence. He is in custody in the Liberty County, Georgia jail awaiting extradition proceedings.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.