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Due in court: man charged with soliciting killers of Young Dolph

Hernandez Govan, the 43-year-old that prosecutors charge solicited the killers of Young Dolph, is scheduled to appear before Criminal Court Judge Lee Coffee on Thursday (Nov. 17), the first anniversary of the Memphis rapper’s death.

Govan is set to appear for a court hearing on the same charges as the two alleged shooters, with an additional “conspiracy to commit first-degree murder” charge.

According to Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy, Govan is accused of approaching two men about killing Young Dolph a full six months before he was gunned down last November.

“Hernandez Govan, 43, has been indicted on conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, first-degree murder, and criminal attempt first-degree murder,” Mulroy said in an update from his office.

“We allege that this individual solicited the murder and put it in motion. We will continue to seek justice in this killing.”

Investigators said Govan allegedly asked Justin Johnson, 24, and Cornelius Smith, 32, in June of 2021, to conspire with him to murder the renowned rapper and owner of the Paper Route Empire record label.

On Nov. 17, 2021, Dolph, whose real name is Adolph Thornton Jr., was ambushed by two masked shooters in broad daylight at a Charjean area cookie shop on Airways near Ketchum.

Govan was indicted Friday (Nov. 11) on first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder, although he was not allegedly at the murder scene. 

“There is not much more we can say about the case,” said Assistant District Attorney Paul Hagerman. “Govan is charged with the murder and the conspiracy because he allegedly is the person who solicited the two other defendants to do the shooting. The rest we can’t comment on ….”

Although Govan is the third man charged in the murder, there is also a fourth defendant charged in the case.

Former Memphian Shundale Barnett, who now lives in Dallas, was charged with accessory after the fact for helping Johnson, who went on the run after his indictment was announced.

Barnett also was riding in the vehicle transporting Johnson when U.S. Marshalls captured the fugitive.

Barnett also faces charges of criminal attempt to commit first-degree murder and theft of property from $10,000 to $60,000.

The investigation is ongoing, and more arrests could follow.

Johnson and Smith also were indicted for unlawful carrying and possession of a firearm, employment of a firearm with intent to commit a felony, and theft of property. 

Johnson also faces additional charges from a non-related case. He failed to register as a sex offender, violating the Sex Offender Registry Act.

Young Dolph died on the scene when two shooters pulled up in a stolen white Mercedes, jumped out of the car, and sprayed Makeda’s Cookies with automatic weapons as Dolph and his brother stood at the counter inside.

Govan has an extensive criminal record, dating back 26 years, with charges ranging from domestic assault and aggravated assault to drug possession and weapons violations.

No motive or any additional details were available regarding Govan’s indictment, but he was connected to the rap music industry through his daughter, 25-year-old Destinee Govan. She was slain in late September while riding in a car with another woman.

Two men jumped from the vehicle in front of the women’s vehicle and opened fire on them. Destinee Govan was pronounced dead at the scene, but the other woman sustained only minor injuries. 

One person was arrested in connection with the shooting after police found him with a gunshot wound to the abdomen. It is unclear whether gunfire was returned from the women inside the vehicle. The second shooter has not been arrested.

Destinee Govan was a Memphis-born rapper known as “Lotta Cash Desto.” She was considered a promising hip-hop artist on the rise after Lil Uzi Vert, another artist out of Philadelphia, had signed her.

Johnson and Smith are scheduled to return to court on Jan. 20.


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