Arrests made in deadly DeKalb online cellphone sale

The suspects were captured in a burned-out Lithonia home.

LITHONIA, Ga. -- After being on the run for days, police said they arrested three suspects accused of shooting and killing a woman who was responding to an online ad.

On Friday, police said Luz Velequez, 40, and her husband drove to an apartment complex in the 1800 block of Woodcrest Walk to purchase a cell phone advertised on a website warrants said was called OfferUp. The couple met the three suspects at that location, but during the interaction the husband grew suspicious.

Once the suspects sensed the couple was on to them, police said they demanded the victims' phones and cash. Moments later, someone pulled a gun on Velequez and shot her in the chest. The husband told police he drove to the entrance of the complex to call for help. Police had been looking for the suspects since then. 

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On May 8, the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office arrested Jamel Harris, 42, and Jakerius Henry, 17, and charged them with murder, aggravated assault and criminal attempt. A third suspect was also arrested and charged, but 11Alive is not identifying them because they are a juvenile.

Authorities said all three suspects were tracked down by a sheriff's K-9 to a burned-out home on Old Wellborn Trace in Lithonia. 

Harris and Henry are now being held at the DeKalb County Jail while the third suspect is at a youth detention center.

These arrests come in the wake of multiple deadly incidents involving online ads. Last week, an Atlanta man's truck was found at a motel with blood inside. Police said he was answering a Craigslist ad to sell his truck, but went missing shortly after. Earlier this week, police said a man was shot and killed at a Smyra restaurant parking lot after he too responded to a Craigslist ad.

Crimes of this nature are nothing new. Two years ago, police said Ronnie Towns killed an elderly couple who drove from Marietta to McCrae, Ga. to buy a 1966 Ford Mustang. A Clark Atlanta University student was killed after answering a Craigslist ad to buy an iPhone. 

Though OfferUp does recommend meeting in person, they encourage users to meet at a public locations such as a cafe or shopping mall. They also recommend taking "extra caution when meeting for a high-value item, and consider meeting at your local police station."

Despite those warnings, authorities said online buy-and-sell websites such as Craigslist and OfferUp can often match criminals with victims. Many local police departments are now providing secure places where people can go to complete their online transactions. 

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Here are some of what local departments have to offer:

Cobb County

Smyrna Police have a program called "Operation Safe Sale" where residents can make transactions in the Departments lobby and request a police officer be present.

Kennesaw Police advise residents to use their lobby or parking lot.

Cherokee County

Canton Police said citizens are welcome to use their parking lot which is well lit and has surveillance cameras.

Clayton County

College Park Police said residents are welcome to use their parking lot and they are looking into providing a safe place in their lobby.

Riverdale Police recommend residents use their parking lot.

Morrow Police offer a safe place to meet. Citizens can go inside their building and have an officer present between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5  p.m.

Gwinnett County

Gwinnett County Police said citizens are welcome to use their parking lot or lobby and request an officer be present for the sale.

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