Members of Newport News street gang convicted of multiple murders, robberies

From left: Eric Pridgen, Herbert Pridgen and Maurice McLain

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Three members of a Newport News street gang, “Thug Relations,” were convicted by a federal jury Monday of multiple murders, robberies and other crimes.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, “Thug Relations” was a criminal organization whose members and associates engaged in acts of violence, including five murders, numerous drug robberies and shootings.

The jury convicted the three defendants of racketeering conspiracy with special verdicts on four separate murders:

  • the murder of Aaron Sumler, on July 5, 2007,
  • the murder of Lafayette Bailey on Dec. 15, 2009,
  • the murder of Lloyd Robinson on Jan. 9, 2010 and
  • the murder of Dominque Wharton on March 16, 2010.

33-year-old Eric “Rabbit” Pridgen, of Newport News, was convicted on charges including racketeering conspiracy (including the murders of Lafayette Bailey, Lloyd Robinson and Dominque Wharton); multiple robberies; murder in aid of racketeering; use, carry, discharge of firearm resulting in murder, felon in possession of firearm and ammunition and other charges. His sentencing date is set for October 12.

29-year-old Herbert “Bok” Pridgen, of Newport News, was convicted on charges including racketeering conspiracy (including the murders of Lafayette Bailey and Lloyd Robinson), felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, interference with commerce by robbery, murder in aid of racketeering, and use, carry and discharge a firearm during a crime of violence resulting in murder. He will be sentenced on October 13.

33-year-old Maurice “Mo” McLain, also of Newport News, was convicted on a charge of racketeering conspiracy, including the murder of Aaron Sumler. His sentencing is also planned for October 12.

The jury returned the verdicts on Friday, also finding the Pridgen brothers guilty of murders in aid of racketeering, Hobbs Act robbery violations, felon in possession charges and use of a firearm resulting in murder.

One of the felon in possession charges related to the murder of an innocent woman, Gale Perch, who was killed on Nov. 15, 2009, as she was in a car with the intended murder victim.

bowles ashby
From left: Douglas Ronald Ashby, Robbie Bowles

Three other defendants, Douglas Ashby, 30, Robbie Bowles, 31, and Antonio Johnson, 30, were charged in the same indictment, but pleaded guilty prior to trial.

Ashby, also known as “Mance,” “Murder Mance” and “Murder,” of Newport News, pleaded guilty in 2015 and admitted his involvement in the murders of Aaron Sumler and Lloyd Robinson. On March 16, he was sentenced to over 34 years in prison.

Robbie “Rob” Bowles, of Newport News, pleaded guilty on Nov. 16, 2015 and admitted to being involved in the murder of Aaron Sumler. On May 3, he was sentenced to 25 years behind bars.

Johnson, of Newport News, pleaded guilty on Feb. 11, 2016, to using, carrying and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, resulting in the murder of Lafayette Bailey. On May 11, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The Pridgen brothers both face a mandatory life sentence following their convictions. McLain faces a maximum penalty of up to life in prison.

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