FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Twenty witnesses were expected to testify Wednesday in the double murder trial, but no one did a better job than Marina Zrnic, 33, one of two witnesses whose lives were deeply intertwined with the main character at this trial, Walter Kash aka Cash.
Both Zrnic and Joshua Dube, whose fiancé, Charlotte, is Cash’s sister, knew the defendant, Ronald Price, who’s been charged with killing Jennifer Dray, 40, and Amanda Shroyer, 30, on April 20, 2021, bursting through the front door of Cash’s home at 815 Third St. and wildly shooting at the downstairs bathroom door where the two women were hiding.
In fact, they said they saw him do it.
He’s been charged with two counts of murder, two counts of felony murder, robbery resulting in death and using a firearm in commission of an offense. The trial will continue Thursday.
Main witnesses saw shooting, take plea deals
In exchange for their testimony, Dube and Zrnic took plea deals for lesser charges. Both had been charged with felony murder, for instance, regarding a red Chevy Trailblazer that in reality was registered to Dube, but Dray claimed after Cash’s death. Dray was Cash’s girlfriend and lived at the Third Street home where drugs were also sold, according to Wednesday’s testimony.
Cash was their boss and their friend. When he died from a fentanyl overdose the Friday before the women were gunned down by a man shrouded in a light-colored hoodie, Cash left behind a backpack with $10,000 worth of methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine.
‘Yeah, we sold drugs, but we were family’
In a city where drug dealers abound, Cash was “up there,” according to Zrnic, as far as clout and sales. Cash procured all kinds of drugs – weed, cocaine, Spice, heroin, methamphetamine and fentanyl, she added. But Cash himself didn’t use fentanyl.
Zrnic, who sold drugs out of Room 811 at the Hawthorn Inn, estimated on the stand that she had enough drugs to last for two months after Cash’s overdose. She alternated shifts with Dube in a 24/7 operation and worked right across the hall from Cash in Room 711, she said.
Zrnic also said she worked for a garbage company. To keep her three children away from the drug selling, she and her boyfriend, “50,” put the kids with his mother, she said. The business brought in $12,000 a week, money that was split with Cash.
Cash would usually check in with Zrnic around 8 a.m., but she didn’t start selling until 9 a.m., she said. Over the course of their friendship, they’d talk about their future, life, kids, everything and when he died, “it hurt.”
The home at 815 Third St. was undergoing renovations in April 2021 paid for by Walter Cash.
“I met Cash’s whole family. Yeah, we were selling drugs, but we were also family,” Zrnic said, dressed in prison gray and wearing her long hair in braids.
But she called Jennifer Dray her best friend, someone she spoke to every day.
The Friday morning Cash didn’t knock on her door and check in at 8 a.m., someone reported that “bro” wasn’t waking up. Zrnic went into his room to find foam coming out of his mouth. From watching TV shows, she knew enough to take his pulse and he was cold. She estimated he’d been dead a couple of hours.
The night before, Cash told Zrnic he’d arranged a threesome with a hotel prostitute and Dray, she testified. After he was found dead, Zrnic discovered Dray in the bathroom crying and afraid people would blame her for his death. An ambulance was called.
Drug boss’s death leads to internal fights and death
Cash’s death led to an unfurling of events worthy of Shakespeare, a fight over territory, mountains of drugs, cash, the home at 815 Third St. that was nearly purchased outright from Ronald Nifong, Cash’s landlord and next door neighbor, and a red Trailblazer, purchased in Dube’s name but used by Cash. Cash was apparently not interested in having the car registered to him, according to testimony.
The Trailblazer seemed to be the focal point of animosity, but there were other concerns. Price, who wasn’t involved in any of these disputes, seemed to take the death of Cash personally as others did.
Price was also “dope sick.” That meant that if he didn’t get another dose of heroin, the drug he was on, he’d go into detox, a painful ordeal.
Dube’d been over to see Nifong to transfer the property name to Cash’s mother, although Jennifer Dray had also spoken to him about taking over the house. Nifong said on the stand he didn’t believe she had the means.
Dube already had the backpack of drugs, and Zrnic was set up for the next couple of months. But the red Trailblazer represented control and Dray was using the vehicle that day to take a friend to pick up a check in Washington Township.
That afternoon, Dube had cornered Dray in the Third Street home. She made frightened calls to her childhood friend after she locked herself in the downstairs bathroom. At some point, the unwitting Shroyer showed up to help and wound up in the bathroom with Dray.
“Doogie herr (sic), Won’t leave..He walking up on mama, he got his pistol, we locked ourselves in the bathroom, me and mom on the bathroom,” Shroyer wrote in a text.
Dube, in orange and white prison stripes indicating he’s in a segregated population at the Allen County Jail for safety, said Wednesday he wasn’t being rude that day at all. No, he wasn’t waving a gun and yelling he owned the house now. He testified he was fairly polite.
Text messages contradict that. “I got her trapped in the bathroom and her people are soposaly (sic) heading this way. I’ll handle it. I’m not leaving till she is,” Dube texted to Zrnic before the shooting. He testified he had a 9mm Glock and let Dray know he was armed.
Dube contacted Zrnic, whom he called “Rina”’ to come pick up the Trailblazer since she’d paid $2,500 to Cash for ownership, although no title or registration had been exchanged. Texts were going back and forth between Zrnic and Dube.
She got a ride and shared the back seat with Ronald Price, who at one point used her cell phone. This was nothing unusual in the drug world as many of the customers are homeless and don’t own cell phones, Zrnic testified. As far as she could recall, Price didn’t have a gun, but he was wearing a hoodie.
Price was the last one in and the one who started shooting, they said. Zrnic and Dube didn’t immediately identify him as the shooter to Fort Wayne police because they were scared he’d come after them, they said.
In fact, Zrnic said Price showed up at the Hawthorn Inn where she’d moved to a different room for safety and she was all about being nice to him since his trigger happy behavior terrified her, she said.
The trial will resume Thursday. Allen County prosecutors Tesa Helge and Tom Chaille are expected to present more witnesses are expected to testify. Closing arguments could take place early Thursday afternoon.