One soldier has been arraigned and another sits in a Liberty County, Georgia, jail awaiting extradition to Michigan in the premeditated murder of Sgt. Tyrone Hassel III, who was shot and killed on New Year’s Eve while home visiting family for the holidays.
Spc. Kemia Hassel, the sergeant’s wife, and Spc. Jeremy Cuellar are accused of conspiring to murder Tyrone, according to a Monday release from Berrien County prosecutor Michael Sepic.
“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,” the release said.
The military provides a $100,000 death gratuity to next-of-kin when a service member dies while on active duty. Additionally, Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance pays up to $400,000 following a death.
All three soldiers were assigned to 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia, according to Fort Stewart spokeswoman Dina McKain.
Tyrone Hassel made a permanent change-of-station move to Fort Stewart from Fort Carson, Colorado, in December.
Kemia Hassel and Cuellar had been having an affair, the Berrien County release said.
According to a joint investigation by Army Criminal Investigation Command and local Michigan officials, Cuellar drove from Georgia to Chicago over the last few days of 2018, where he waited for Kemia Hassel’s directions.
On Dec. 31, Tyrone Hassel was returning from a gathering at his father’s house when Cuellar ambushed him outside of the St. Joseph Township home where the married couple was staying with their toddler son.
A tip to local police led to arrests on Jan. 11. Kemia Hassel was arraigned Monday, her bond set at $2.5 million, with a mandatory tracking device. She is currently being held in the Berrien County jail, the release said, and her next hearing is set for Jan. 23.
Cuellar faces a charge of premeditated murder, along with an extra charge for using a firearm to commit a felony. He was arrested in Georgia on Saturday and will face arraignment in Michigan, the release said.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members. Follow on Twitter @Meghann_MT