A Pennsylvania woman upset her relationship ended hired a hitman to stalk and kill a romantic rival, and sent the assassin to shoot the woman as she sat in a Dunkin’ drive-thru with her 11-year-old son, prosecutors said.
Julie Jean, 34, is charged with murder and conspiracy in connection to the April 11 slaying of Rachel King, a 35-year-old teacher at a Philadelphia K-8 charter school, said Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele, who announced Jean's arrest Wednesday.
The shooting took place in Cheltenham Township just outside Philadelphia, court records show.
Court papers show police arrested Jean Tuesday. Also arrested: the alleged hitman, 33-year-old Zakkee Steven Alhakim, who prosecutors said used a privately made firearm – commonly called a “ghost gun” – to kill King. As King was stopped at the coffee chain, prosecutors said, Alhakim shot her at point-blank range in an early-morning ambush.
“This cold-blooded killing of Rachel King was a targeted murder of an innocent person, planned by these two defendants and horrifically carried out in front of King’s son,” Steele said. “It is a tragic killing of a good person, all because of an ended affair."
Online records show Jean, who lives in Elkins Park, remained jailed without bond on Thursday and that she is due in court for a preliminary hearing on the charges next week. Prosecutors said Alhakim also remained jailed awaiting arraignment, facing charges including first-degree murder and conspiracy.
Cutting ties and a protection order
Court documents filed Monday reveal King had been in a relationship for years with a man who last year started a relationship with Jean.
When King discovered the infidelity, the man cut ties with Jean, a decision that infuriated Jean, prosecutors said. The affair strained King’s relationship with the man, but they reconciled.
But according to Jean's probable cause arrest affidavit, she stalked and harassed her ex through phone calls and texts and appeared unannounced at his apartment. It goes on to read Jean also reached out to King, calling her at work and asking King about her relationship with Jean's former lover.
According to prosecutors, in December, the man applied for and received a protection order from Jean.
A plot, Mercury sedan and violin practice
In February, the affidavit shows, Jean reached out to Alhakim and the pair began exchanging text messages which included a Google Maps screenshot of King’s apartment.
Evidence pulled from Jean’s cell phone showed the pair met multiple times in Philadelphia, and during one meet up, she provided him with pictures of King, court records show.
It goes on to read Jean plotted with Alhakim and, in March, bought him a Mercury sedan he used to follow King as she drove her son, to violin practice.
On the day of the killing, the affidavit reads, officers responded at 7:30 a.m. to the Melrose Shopping Center for a report of a shooting and found King dead in the driver’s seat of her Ford Edge vehicle. The SUV, court papers show, had come to a rest on a parking island near the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru lane.
Detectives also recovered six 9mm fired cartridge casings from outside of the vehicle where the shooter had been standing when he killed King, who was shot several times.
Prosecutors said the Mercury matched the description of the vehicle used by the gunman who targeted King in the drive-thru.
Hours after the shooting, Philadelphia police found the Mercury in city limits and attempted to pull it over, but the driver took officers on a chase until he crashed into a fence. Police identified the man behind the wheel as Alhakim.
Photos, phone records and a CashApp payment
In an interview with detectives, Alhakim denied being in Cheltenham on the day of killing and also denied knowing Jean.
During a search of Alhakim's cell phone, detectives located a photo taken March 16 depicting a Polymer P80 handgun.
Through a national ballistics database, officials said, detectives matched the shell casings with those taken from the crime scene and determined that they came from the same gun.
Detectives also interviewed Jean, who denied any involvement in King's slaying, court records show. But when detectives got a warrant for Jean’s cellphone, they found she had deleted nearly 800 text messages just minutes before their meeting, including all of her communication with Alhakim.
During a review of CashApp records, detectives also found a transaction between Jean and Alhakim, the affidavit continues.
Natalie Neysa Alund covers breaking and trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Julie Jean, 'hitman' charged in Philly teacher Rachel King's killing