Feds charge man with obstruction in cold case killing of Maryland football coach’s son

Published 9/23/2022 12:02 p.m. EDT, Updated 9/24/2022 8:56 a.m. EDT

Baltimore Police crime scene tape remains on the scene after a vehicle exploded inside a five-story parking garage in Baltimore’s Fells Point neighborhood on 7/27/22.  Two people are being treated for injuries, fire officials said Wednesday afternoon.

Federal prosecutors have charged a man with obstruction of justice because they say he has refused to give information that they believe will help solve the cold-case killing of the son of University of Maryland football coach Mike Locksley.

In a hearing Friday afternoon in U.S. District Court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Colleen McGuinn said that John Willie Kennedy Jr., 44, had “repeatedly lied” to federal investigators about the killing of Meiko Locksley, which occurred in Columbia, Maryland, in September 2017. Kennedy eventually identified the killer and walked investigators through how it happened, only to recant, McGuinn said.

“He said, ‘I ain’t no snitch, and I ain’t no killer, and I’m not going to be your witness,’” McGuinn told Magistrate Judge A. David Copperthite at a detention hearing.

But Kennedy’s defense attorney, Brandon Patterson, said his client had told prosecutors “what they wanted to hear” under pressure.

“He was backed into a corner,” Patterson said.

The charges show for the first time that federal investigators have taken up the investigation into Meiko Lockley’s killing. The case has gone unsolved for five years, even after Howard County police boosted a reward for information in the case to $20,000. Mike Locksley, who was a coach at the University of Alabama at the time, returned home in 2018 to be the head coach at Maryland. He has pleaded for someone to come forward with information.

The killing took place on the night of Sept. 3, 2017. Meiko was 25 when he was found with a single gunshot wound to the chest in the 5500 block of Harpers Farm Road.

Revealing details about the case for the first time, McGuinn said that Kennedy called 911 to report the shooting, which happened outside his home. He told police that he was inside watching football at the time and did not see anything.

But McGuinn said investigators later learned that Kennedy had failed to disclose that he knew Locksley, and phone records showed they had been communicating with each other shortly before the shooting. Kennedy later admitted he had sold Locksley marijuana that night, but said that was the last he saw him.

McGuinn said prosecutors can prove that Kennedy was outside with three other people “within minutes” of Locksley’s fatal shooting, and confronted him with that evidence.

She said investigators brought in Kennedy in for an interview in August, prepared to charge him with obstruction of justice, and say Kennedy not only identified the shooter but “demonstrated how everything went down.” Prosecutors offered him immunity for his testimony.

But when it came time to testify before the grand jury, he reversed course.

McGuinn asked that Kennedy be detained pending trial, saying he had “shunned this process in every way possible” and was a risk to interfere with other witnesses.

“While this is slightly unusual, the government is kind of in a corner at this point,” McGuinn told Copperthite. “We can’t risk having Mr. Kennedy out and about and compromising this investigation and stopping it from going forward.”

Patterson, Kennedy’s defense attorney, maintained despite the government’s assertions that Kennedy told the truth initially and that his detailed account was coerced. He noted that Kennedy had not fled and had turned himself in after being told he was indicted.

Copperthite denied the government’s request to have Kennedy detained, saying that the case had been playing out for five years and he was not a flight risk or public safety risk. “We’re talking about a five-year-old murder,” Copperthite said, while warning Kennedy that if he violated the terms of his release: “I won’t blink. You’ll be in Chesapeake Detention Facility awaiting trial.”

Mike Locksley spoke out in 2020 about the pain his son’s death had caused, but also said his family now wanted closure.

“We want closure. We’re not mad. We’re not angry anymore -- we’re hurt. We miss him,” Locksley said. “We would just hope that if someone has any information that they would just come forward to maybe bring some closure. The Circle of Life isn’t built for parents to bury children, for us that’s been really tough to endure for the last three years.”

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