Indie News

Two Young Dolph Murder Suspects Nabbed, Authorities Reveal

Both alleged gunmen wanted in connection with the brazen daylight ambush and murder of Memphis rapper Young Dolph were in custody Tuesday, officials confirmed to IndieLand.

Justin Johnson, 23, was captured around 3 p.m. local time in Indiana following a “coordinated” manhunt by the U.S. Marshals Two Rivers Violent Fugitive Task Force and the Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force, a Marshals Service spokesman said.

The apprehension came as Shelby County prosecutors publicly identified second suspect Cornelius Smith, 32, for the first time.

Smith was indicted by a grand jury Tuesday on first-degree murder charges, Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich said. He’s also facing additional counts of attempted first-degree murder, convicted felon in possession of a firearm, employment of a firearm in the commission of a dangerous felony, and theft of property over $10,000.

Now in custody on a no-bail hold, Smith was first arrested on Dec. 9 in Southaven, Tennessee, on an auto-theft warrant involving the white Mercedes-Benz vehicle used in the senseless slaying.

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Young Dolph, 36, was visiting Makeda’s Cookies near Memphis International Airport when he was gunned down Nov. 17 in broad daylight. The revered Memphis rapper, born Adolph Robert Thornton, Jr., was left for dead by suspects who fled in a white 2014 Mercedes.

Officials said Tuesday that the vehicle was taken in a carjacking on Nov. 10 at a gas station in the 2800 block of Kirby Road. It was later found on Nov. 20 behind a residence in the 1100 block of Bradley in Orange Mound after a tipster said it was abandoned shortly after Young Dolph’s fatal shooting.

Smith was extradited Tuesday and transferred to the Shelby County Jail from the DeSoto County Jail in Hernando, where he had been held since his arrest, officials said.

The victim in the attempted murder count was Young Dolph’s brother, who was with him at the time of the shooting, prosecutors said.

Officials confirmed that Johnson announced on social media over the weekend that he planned to turn himself in to Memphis Police on Monday, but he never did. Instead, the aspiring rapper, known as Straight Drop, was on the run.

dolph suspects

Cornelius Smith, left, and Justin Johnson

Shelby County Sheriff’s Office; Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

Authorities identified Johnson as a suspect late last Wednesday and said a first-degree murder warrant had been issued in the Young Dolph case by the Memphis Police Department.

Johnson also has an outstanding warrant for violation of federal supervised release in a weapons case and “has ties to organized criminal gangs,” a statement from Memphis Police, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said.

Young Dolph’s aunt, Rita Myers, told IndieLand Jan. 5 that the family was still reeling from her nephew’s senseless slaying.

“Our family has suffered a tremendous loss, because he was the glue that held our family together,” Myers said of her nephew. “I’m still crying, day and night. We were very close. And it’s not just me, it’s the whole family. I couldn’t even say ‘Merry Christmas,’ or celebrate my birthday, or say ‘Happy New Year’ to anyone, because I don’t feel that. It’s like we lost a part of ourselves, and I can’t see an end to the suffering and hurt.”

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