FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) –Two lovers were sitting inside a car in the alley behind Lillie Street when an older would-be suitor walked up, told the couple he was going to kill them, raised his 9mm semi-automatic handgun with a slide, and opened fire.

Sitting in the driver’s seat of her black Chevy Malibu, 20-year-old Kiera Zepke took two shots in her arms, one exiting her chest, giving her only a few minutes to live.

Her boyfriend, Michael Rau, was not injured. He rushed to carry her inside a home at 1304 Lillie St. where she eventually died. At 11:38 p.m. May 9, her landlady, Sharon Hagler-Ellis was on the phone calling 911.

Both witnesses identified Steven Atkins, 38, as the shooter.

That was some of the testimony Tuesday in Atkins’ murder trial Tuesday. Atkins is also charged with criminal recklessness, a Level 6 felony.

The prosecution, led by deputy prosecutor Tasha Lee and Chief Deputy Counsel Tom Chaille, laid out a series of texts and eyewitness accounts. Among those on the stand Tuesday was Hagler-Ellis, who said she sprang to her bedside when she heard the shots, grabbed her already-in-focus binoculars hanging on a closet door, and pushed open the blinds with her thumb and index finger fast enough to see a muzzle flash and recognize the shooter. Her bedroom window faced the alley where Zepke was killed.

After Fort Wayne officer Nathan Beagle arrived, Hagler-Ellis immediately identified Atkins as the shooter.

“Do you know who shot her?” Beagle asked as they stayed with Zepke laid out on the kitchen floor. The conversation was recorded on his body camera.

“Steven Atkins,” she said immediately.

She knew Atkins through a soured business relationship, not completely spelled out, and said he had stayed at her home in October and November of 2022 with his girlfriend.

By March, he was “mad” at Hagler-Ellis and Zepke, who lived there with her young child. Atkins is accused of shooting up the Lillie Street home around 3 a.m. on March 30, a bullet just missing Hagler-Ellis’s head, she said.

A text ties him to the event. “You put yourself in this (expletive), so don’t be mad. I’m sick of this (expletive.) Toe tag (expletive.)”

On April 1, he sent another text: “If I lose my (expletive), y’all know what I’m going to do to you.”

On April 18, he sent a text to Kiera declaring “I love you,” and going into explicit detail about “sexual things he wants to do to her,” Chaille said in opening arguments.

On May 3, Zepke spoke to law enforcement on an unrelated case when she was asked if she knew Atkins. She said he was “mad” at her and was sending threatening texts and emojis and stalking her.

A voice message on the day she was killed indicates he had been at her car and seen messages written on it.

“You know what I do to (expletive) who ain’t loyal,” Atkins’ text read.

Beagle located Rau behind a door leading to the basement, worried about a warrant out for him. But he independently identified Atkins as the shooter, Beagle said.

Both Rau and Atkins ended up in the holding cell at the Allen County Jail the next day when Atkins told him to change his story.

It didn’t take the FWPD long to locate Atkins. He was picked up around 1:30 p.m. on May 10, smoking a cigarette on his front porch in the 3500 block of Reed Street and he wanted to finish it. 

“This is the last one I’m going have for a long time,” he told arresting officer Alvin Davis.

The trial will resume early Wednesday morning. Defense attorneys Jerad Bryant Marks and David Felts queried Hagler-Ellis about her binoculars and her bedroom and how she was able to work the blinds and binoculars so quickly as to identify the shooter.

Atkins, aka “Blu,” was wearing a gaiter, too, which would have obscured his face. But witnesses said it was pulled down when he was shooting.