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Bodies of missing 2 rappers, friend found under debris in vacant Michigan apartment building

Feb. 2, 2023 Updated Fri., Feb. 3, 2023 at 1:37 p.m.

By George Hunter The Detroit News

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. — The bodies of three missing men — two rappers from Oscoda and Melvindale who’d visited Detroit for a gig along with a friend from Detroit — were found under a pile of debris in the basement of a vacant Highland Park apartment building, according to three police sources familiar with the investigation.

Police had been looking for rappers Armani Kelly and Dante Wicker and friend Montoya Givens for nearly two weeks, after the three were reported missing Jan. 21. Investigators discovered the men’s bodies Thursday inside the Northcourse Apartments building on the Highland Park border near Detroit’s Palmer Park, the sources told The Detroit News.

Investigators were led to the area after obtaining the three men’s cellular data. Their three phones “pinged” to the area near the large, abandoned apartment complex. Members of several units from multiple police agencies searched the building, finally discovering the bodies in the basement, beneath old construction equipment. The victims had been shot, a source said.

Police had requested data from their respective cellphone companies after the men were reported missing, but because “exigent circumstances” involving an immediate known danger didn’t exist, it took several days for police to get access to the data, the source said.

Michigan State Police 1st Lt. Mike Shaw confirmed three bodies were found under mounds of debris inside the apartment complex, and at 6 p.m., he said the bodies hadn’t yet been removed from the building. He didn’t confirm the bodies belonged to the three missing men, although three Detroit police sources with knowledge of the investigation confirmed the bodies were those of Kelly, 27, Wicker, 31, and Givens, 31.

“It’s supposed to be abandoned, but there are a lot of squatters in there,” said Shaw of the large complex.

Early Thursday evening, police had put up yellow crime scene tape, while parked outside were the Detroit Police Mobile Command Center and units from the Michigan State Police, which was leading the investigation, and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives.

Kelly, a rapper from Oscoda who performed under the alias Marley Whoop, had been slated to perform at a Jan. 21 birthday party at Lounge 31 near Gratiot, but the event was canceled. Wicker, a rapper from Melvindale, was also scheduled to perform at the Lounge 31 party under the stage name “B12,” police said.

That night, Kelly told his fiancée the gig had been canceled over an equipment issue, so he planned to link up with others and possibly find open mic events. But texts, calls and Facebook messages went unanswered sometime after 7:30 p.m., according to Kelly’s fiancée, Taylor Perrin.

Police said Kelly picked up Wicker and Givens on the way to the gig before it was canceled. The three men had been missing since.

Warren police last week arrested a 15-year-old boy driving Kelly’s 2017 Chevrolet Equinox without a license plate. A Detroit police source involved in the multi-agency investigation said the teenager told police that a man had told him to pick up the car on Schoolcraft on Detroit’s west side.

Police looked in the boy’s cellphone, and calls and texts led them to the man, who lives on Detroit’s northwest side. The man had an outstanding warrant involving alleged fraud, a source said. Police got a warrant to search the man’s house Monday, and he was taken into custody for questioning, according to the source.

Warren Police Commissioner William Dwyer confirmed Thursday that a 15-year-old has been charged in connection with possessing Kelly’s vehicle. The youth was arrested last week at an apartment complex in Warren, Dwyer said.

“It’s significant the arrest was made,” Dwyer said.

The Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday night on charges involving the juvenile.

Another break in the case came after investigators pored over high-definition video from Project Green Light locations in Detroit and found a video of the man wearing gloves cleaning out Kelly’s car, a source said.

On Thursday afternoon, Givens’ mother, Cat Fogle, said police informed her about the find at about 4:30 p.m. “They told me they found the three bodies. … I don’t know what I’m going to do; how I’m going to bury him,” Fogle told The News.

Kelly’s mother, Lorrie Kemp, told The News that police informed her three bodies were found, “but they didn’t identify them.”

Two days before he was last seen alive, Kelly posted a Facebook Live video in which he and two other men, all of them wearing masks, discussed various topics, including Kelly saying he planned to pick up “Jugg,” Givens’ nickname, for the Jan. 21 birthday party at Lounge 31.

“I’m gonna pick up Jugg,” Kelly said. “That’s my baby. I love Jugg, but I don’t think he got the money to get in nowhere.”

At one point in the video, one of the men displays his T-shirt with a logo touting the video game “Call of Duty: Vanguard.”

“I’m playing real life,” Kelly admonished the man. “You still playing shoot ‘em up, bang-bang?”

The other man replied: “Real life, though. We’re gonna touch the shoot ‘em up bang-bang money, too.”

Fogle, Givens’ mother, said her son wasn’t a rapper. “When he got out of prison in March, his younger brother entered the music game, and was producing and writing his own music,” she said. “They talked about doing it together but he said, ‘That’s not really for me.’”

Fogle said her son knew Kelly from prison, as Kelly and Givens were incarcerated together in the Baraga Correctional Facility in Baraga from August 2017 to March 2022, Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Chris Gautz said.

Perrin said all three men had met in prison. In separate cases, Kelly and Wicker were convicted of armed robbery, while Givens was convicted of carjacking.

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