Three Whitman students charged with murder after Bethesda killing


Photo by The Black & White

Police found a man dead in the shopping center at 6831 Wisconsin Avenue on Monday evening.

By Ethan Schenker

Trigger warning: This story contains language that pertains to violent crime.

Montgomery County Police arrested and charged three Whitman students in connection with the December 19 death of a 33-year-old man in downtown Bethesda.

Joshua Wright, 17, Blaise Uchemadu, 18, and Antonio Lawrence, 16, are accused of killing Lawrence Richard Wilson, Jr., whom police found dead in a stairwell at the Target on Wisconsin Avenue at 8:15 p.m. on Monday evening, according to court documents that The Black & White obtained. The three suspects each face charges of first-degree murder, armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery, which collectively carry a potential penalty of one life sentence and an additional 40 years in prison. 

Detectives wrote in an application for statement of charges that all three suspects lived at the Greentree Group Home in Bethesda. The two minor suspects are being charged as adults, and all three of them are being held without bond following initial hearings held on Wednesday. 

In an email sent to Whitman families on Thursday afternoon, Principal Robert Dodd described the three students’ alleged involvement in the man’s death as “deeply troubling and tragic.”

The Wisconsin Avenue shopping center’s security camera footage showed the three suspects and the deceased entering the stairwell, and the suspects fleeing the scene 17 minutes later, according to the charging documents. The victim did not reappear on camera. 

The three teens planned to rob the victim of two ounces of marijuana under the pretense of an arranged purchase on Sunday, according to the charging documents. Shortly before the robbery, one of the suspects — later identified as Uchemadu — handed Lawrence a knife and told him to “be careful,” Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office Public Affairs Director Lauren DeMarco told The Black & White, referencing a statement from Assistant State’s Attorney Kathy Knight during a Wednesday court hearing. 

The victim was subsequently stabbed multiple times, and his throat was slit, Knight said. Both charging documents and Knight’s statement at the hearing identified Lawrence as the assailant. Police did not find marijuana on the victim’s person at the time of discovery on Monday evening, according to the case files. 

The criminal charges surprised many Whitman students who were familiar with the suspects.

“I knew Josh [Wright], and he was an outgoing, upbeat kid who played football with me on the Whitman varsity team,” said a junior who wished to remain anonymous. “He was very passionate and always kept our heads up when we were losing. He was a bit of an inspiration to me, and to see him in a place like this was just shocking.”

Detectives wrote in charging documents that on Monday, a man called the MCPD Bethesda Station and reported that his nephew — who was later identified as Antonio Lawrence — had told him that he “stabbed and killed a man” at the Target. Members of the Repeat Offender Unit (ROU) took Lawrence into custody on Tuesday after the suspect left his residence and attempted to board a Metro train to DC, police wrote in a narrative supporting the criminal charges against the suspect. Members of the unit stopped Lawrence, who, unsolicited, said to a detective, “Is that dude really dead?” according to court documents. 

Five hours later, after police received the call from Lawrence’s uncle, Wright walked into the MCPD Bethesda Station and reported witnessing a stabbing on December 19, according to charging documents. Wright eventually told police that he was present at the scene “to act as muscle and to intimidate Wilson,” detectives wrote in court filings.

After statements from two of the suspects implicated Uchemadu in the robbery, police executed an arrest warrant for the 18-year-old on Tuesday evening, according to the narrative filed with the court. 

“A death in our community with alleged involvement by several of our students is profoundly unsettling for all of us in the Walt Whitman community,” Dodd wrote in his community message. “The safety and security of our students remains our top priority and we continue to work every day with our partners… to ensure that we are providing a safe environment for our students and staff.”