Bodies identified, mystery persists in death of Michigan rappers, friend




  • In US
  • 2023-02-03 22:56:26Z
  • By Detroit Free Press

Three bodies found buried under debris in the basement of an abandoned Highland Park apartment building were positively identified Friday as three Michigan men who went missing nearly two weeks ago, according to Michigan State Police.

Armani Kelly, 27, of Oscoda; Montoya Givens, 31, of Detroit, and Dante Wicker, 31, of Melvindale, hadn't been seen since the evening of Jan. 21.

Kelly, whose stage name as a rapper was "Marley Whoop," and Wicker, known as "B12," were set to perform hip-hop sets at the east-side Detroit club Lounge 31. Givens, nicknamed "Jugg," tagged along. Their performances, however, were canceled because of technical failures with the club's DJ equipment.

Their families desperately searched for the men in the days that followed after none of them returned.

Investigators have characterized the case as alarming, rare, and difficult. All activity from their cellphones and social media accounts halted that evening.

The three men hadn't been heard from or seen until Thursday, when Detroit police canvassed the area of McNichols Road and Log Cabin Street and discovered their bodies in the basement of the abandoned apartment building.

Some family members of the missing men were notified Thursday evening that bodies had been discovered, although, at that time, police had not confirmed their identities.

Mothers of the men, fearing the worst, waited in horror as police worked to identify the bodies.

"I just have this gut feeling that it's my baby in there. I just want to see him and make sure," Givens' mother, Cat Fogle, told the Free Press on Friday morning, before her son and the others were identified.

More:Mothers of missing men wait as police work to identify bodies found in Highland Park

Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw said Friday morning that detectives weren't immediately able to identify the men by sight alone because of weather conditions and the condition of the bodies.

It took hours before members of a homicide task force and a forensic lab could get into the building on Thursday, Shaw said. Authorities had to wait for search warrants to be approved to search the building, recover the victims, and gather evidence. Once those search warrants were approved, the building's poor, rat-infested condition slowed forensic progress, Shaw said.

The bodies were transported to the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office for autopsies, but results may take up to 48 hours because extremely cold temperatures left the bodies in a state that delayed the start of the autopsies, Shaw said.

Cause of death and motive for the apparent homicides have yet to be determined, according to Michigan State Police.

Police table at the abandoned Palmer Park Estates on Friday, Feb.
Police table at the abandoned Palmer Park Estates on Friday, Feb.  

"It's been terrible for me. I've been upset, I'm mad, I'm angry, I'm distraught. Keep the investigation going until they find out what actually happened," Donna Lewis, Wicker's mother, told the Free Press.

The car Kelly drove from Oscoda to Detroit was found in Warren shortly after Kelly's family reported him missing on Jan. 23. A juvenile was arrested in connection with the vehicle's theft and charged with receiving and concealing stolen property, according to Warren police.

Givens was not a rap artist, despite initial police reports, and was a supportive friend and loved one, according to a GoFundMe page that was created to help cover the cost of Givens' funeral.

Online fundraising pages were also established for the families of Wicker and Kelly.

Lorrie Kemp, Kelly's mother, could not be reached for comment Friday. She posted to her Facebook page Thursday night asking for space.

"I need time to deal with this," she wrote.

More:Mother in case of 3 missing rappers: 'I don't know who to trust'

In a previous interview with the Free Press, Kemp described her son as creative and ambitious. He had been taking community college trade classes and was working in manufacturing. His fiancée, Taylor Perrin, said music was everything to him.

Givens and Kelly previously served time together at the same prison, the Baraga Correctional Facility, from August of 2017 to March of 2022, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections. Givens and Kelly had recently been paroled.

Andrea Sahouri covers criminal justice for the Detroit Free Press. She can be contacted at 313-264-0442, asahouri@freepress.com or on Twitter @andreamsahouri.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Bodies identified, mystery persists in death of Michigan rappers

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