Douglas County authorities believe they've closed the book this week on a murder investigation that began 17 months ago with the discovery of a body on a private country lane.
Two men, already in custody awaiting sentencing in federal cases, were charged in Douglas County with the murder of Lawrence hip-hop musician Anthony "Clacc" Vital, 28.
Major C. Edwards Jr., 28, of Lawrence, and Durell A. Jones, 23, of Kansas City, Kan., are each charged with one count of first-degree murder.
Sheriff Ken McGovern commended detectives for solving a difficult case.
"They've been on this since day one and they're still following up," McGovern said during a Tuesday news conference with District Attorney Charles Branson. "We're talking a rural setting and not (many) witnesses and not much information."
Vital's body was found Oct. 15, 2006, on private property 2 miles west of Lawrence. He died from multiple gunshot wounds. An investigation during the next several days led to Edwards, who was described at the time as a "person of interest" by the sheriff's office.
Edwards - also known as "Ja Ja" - later was arrested near Tupelo, Miss., on federal gun charges. In January, Edwards pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful possession of a sawed-off shotgun. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 14.
Jones is awaiting sentencing later this month in a federal drug case. He pleaded guilty to possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute.
Investigators presented information they had in the case last week to Branson's office, McGovern said. Charges were filed Monday afternoon. The federal cases did not have an effect on the timing of the county charges, McGovern said. Instead, it was a matter of record-keeping and getting all investigative information together, he said.
Efforts are under way to arrange with federal authorities to have Edwards and Jones brought to Douglas County, Branson said.
Branson and McGovern said they do not expect to charge anyone else in the Vital case nor do they expect additional charges against Edwards and Jones.
Investigators also have stayed in touch with Vital's family about the investigation, McGovern said.
"We're trying to keep them informed on what we're doing and I think that's the right thing to do," he said. "They've been really good with working with us and, hopefully, it'll give them some relief from what's happening."
Vital, who was born in Lake Charles, La., moved to Lawrence in 1996. At the time of his death he was a member of a local hip-hop group called DaBombSquad. He used the name Clacc.
Edwards also was in the music business, according to federal court documents. Sheriff's officers began looking at Edwards after Vital's wife told them that the last time she'd seen her husband - about 9 p.m. the night before his body was found - he was leaving their home to go out with Edwards, those documents revealed.
Federal court documents also outlined how officers were led to a Lawrence residence where Edwards was staying. They found bullets and an empty gun case. A woman told officers she purchased a .22-caliber handgun for Edwards under an altered name at an Ottawa pawn shop. She later went back to the pawn shop and traded the .22 for a .38-caliber pistol. An informant told officers Edwards was seen with a .38. Edwards had been convicted of sale of cocaine and, therefore, wasn't legally allowed to have a gun.
Branson and McGovern declined to discuss a motive for Vital's death.
Musicians in Vital's group couldn't be reached for comment. But Keith Loneker, who knew Vital and also knows Edwards, called the ordeal "a tragedy for the city."
"Both Anthony and Major were known by so many people," Loneker said. "It's just a real bad situation."
If Edwards and Jones are convicted of murder they would face a mandatory life sentence with the possibility of parole after 25 years.