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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — There was a price on the victim’s head.
That was what both the prosecution and defense said at the opening for the murder trial of Tremaine Wyatt, 25, when he allegedly pulled up in front of Allen Lamar Ruffin’s home in the 2500 block of Lillie Street, rolled down the driver’s side window and started firing two guns.
Seconds later, Ruffin – shot in the head, chest, and arm – was dead in front of his open front door, his girlfriend, also shot in the right hand and legs, crawled inside to escape the gunfire.
Ruffin never had a chance. The bullet that entered his head exited, rendering him defenseless. Between 18 and 22 bullets were fired, one a 22 caliber, according to a probable cause affidavit written by lead homicide detective Donald Lewis. The other gun was a 9mm.
In the summer of 2020, there was bad blood, very bad blood, between the alleged shooter’s family, and the 31-year-old victim, according to opening arguments delivered by Chief Deputy Prosecutor Thomas Chaille and John Cantrell, a Hammond attorney retained by Wyatt.
Three days before the shooting on July 21, Ruffin allegedly shot up Wyatt’s grandmother’s house as Wyatt sat inside. That day, Wyatt asked a friend if he had any 9mm shells, one of two kinds of shell casings found at the scene, Chaille said.
Then, there was the report that another friend “had put some money on AG’s head.” AG was the street name for Ruffin.
The day before the homicide, Wyatt wrote ominously to a friend: “If I go to jail tomorrow, it ain’t my fault. Hold it down for me.”
There was “obviously a heated battle between two families,” Cantrell said, even as he told the jury that “there’s convincing proof they got the wrong guy.”
What was Ruffin doing on his front porch as he got shot? Trying to fix the Ring doorbell, his girlfriend, Reshanae Wilhite, testified Tuesday. She was right there holding the door open and was shot, too. She still has fragments in her right hand and lower legs.
But Wilhite couldn’t come up with Wyatt’s name right away, she said. She’d seen Wyatt “at the club,” and she knew him as the brother of SirThomas Billingsley first.
Lewis’s probable cause foreshadows testimony to come in the next two days of the trial in front of Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull.
“Multiple bullets were fired into this occupied family home and penetrated the walls creating a substantial risk of bodily injury,” Lewis wrote.
Ruffin collapsed before he could get inside and died on the porch of five bullet wounds. Wilhite, holding the door for Ruffin, locked eyes with Wyatt as he was shooting and was hit in the right hand. She was also stuck by bullets and bullet debris on her lower legs “after the bullets came through the open door and wall and striking her.”
Wilhite’s 12-year-old daughter ran down from upstairs and called 9-1-1 “to report that her mother had been shot and Allen Ruffin was dead.”
Chief Counsel Tesa Helge played that 911 call in court, the young girl repeating the Lillie Street address as she cried and screamed.
“Who shot your mom?” the dispatcher asked.
“I don’t know! I don’t know!” she said. Later, she told the woman at the other end of the line “I can’t breathe.”
“Just stay with me,” the dispatcher said.
It was audio from nearby home surveillance that recorded between 18 and 22 rounds in a “hail of rapid gunfire.” Shell casings at the crime scene turned out to be from a NORMA brand .223 caliber, the same kind of shell casing found inside Wyatt’s vehicle, court documents said.
The camera filmed Wyatt’s 2016 black Nissan Altima pulling onto Lillie Street northbound from the parking lot of the Coke Apartments at the corner of Lillie and East Pontiac Street. Even though the Altima went out of view, the audio recorded the shots fired.
Wilhite had seen the car before, she testified Tuesday and recognized the car when she watched the video.
In the next two days, as more testimony is heard, the jurors will have to make up their minds. The trial resumes Wednesday morning.