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South New Jersey Gang Leader Sentenced In Torture Murders

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) – A Camden gang leader has been sentenced to 30 years in prison without parole for his role in the torture killings of a Burlington County couple.

Twenty-five-year-old Kuasheim Powell had pleaded guilty in August to two counts of murder in the deaths of 18-year-old Muriah Huff of Cinnaminson and 23-year-old Michael Hawkins of Mount Holly.

Powell received 30-year concurrent terms Friday for those slayings, along with 20-year concurrent terms for his role in the shootings of two Pennsauken brothers in an unrelated incident.

Camden County Prosecutors say several people—males and females who ranged in age from 14 to 24 — attacked Huff and Hawkins before they were killed in February 2010 in a Camden rowhouse and buried in a shallow grave in the backyard.

Authorities say Hawkins was killed as part of a gang dispute while Huff—who authorities say was an innocent bystander—was slain because the attackers feared she would tell police about their involvement in Hawkins’ death.

Huff was beaten with a chair, choked with a rope, stabbed and suffocated. Citing her brutal death, some of Huff’s relatives asked state Superior Court Judge Irvin Snyder to throw out Powell’s plea deal, saying he deserved a life term he would likely get if convicted at trial.

Snyder said he agreed 30 years was not enough, but eventually imposed the sentence called for in the agreement.

Prosecutors say they agreed to the plea deal because it ensured that Powell would receive a lengthy sentence and eliminated the chance he could possibly be acquitted at trial.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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