‘you did the right thing,’ homicide detective tells witness
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The first day of September 2021 had the usual good morning kind of start for Marina Zrnic.
As was her usual habit, Zrnic went to the office at Hawthorn Suites to speak with her friend at the desk. Her friend also did housekeeping at this local hotel off Lima Road, so she followed her into the laundry room.
That’s when she watched five Vice & Narcotics vehicles pull into the Hawthorn, known as a hotspot for illegal drugs, and with them several officers from the Allen County Sheriff’s Division.
As Zrnic was arrested and booked on two counts of felony murder for the shooting deaths of Jennifer Dray, 40, and Amanda Shroyer, 30, on April 20, 2021, she worried about her three kids.
The day of the shootings, she and three others arrived at 815 Third St. around 5:15 p.m., full of revenge for the death of their drug boss and friend, Walter Kash aka Cash, who had died the Friday before from a suspicious fentanyl overdose.
A band of Cash’s dealers and hangers-on all blamed Dray, his girlfriend, who was with him and a local prostitute the night he died. At that time, Zrnic ,33, and her sales partner, Joshua Dube, 37, Cash’s brother-in-law, were selling drugs out of Hawthorn Suites, across the hall from Cash. At other times, they sold at the Travelodge and Hallmark Inn, according to Zrnic’s testimony.
The day of her arrest, homicide detective Ben MacDonald was waiting for her. During an interview, through extended sobbing and weeping, Zrnic fingered Ronald Price, as the shooter. Six days later, Price was charged with murder.
This week, a jury will decide whether or not Price is guilty of two counts of murder, two counts of felony murder, robbery resulting in death and using a fire arm in commission of an offense. Just the two counts of murder alone could net him 130 years in prison. For her testimony, Zrnic’s plea deal calls for 15 years with five years suspended.
On Thursday in court, Zrnic was one of the witnesses who dominated the courtroom even though she wasn’t there. As MacDonald sat in the witness box, jurors watched his police interview on video with Zrnic. Others in the gallery listened.
“I know you didn’t intend it to happen. Dube didn’t intend it to happen. I know you know who did it.,” MacDonald said after she asked to speak to her attorney, Sean Arata.
“You did the right thing,” MacDonald told her, after earlier telling her she was looking at 100 years on the two felony murder charges connected to the case, and with that kind of time, she wouldn’t see her kids anymore.
Zrnic expressed her fear of Price, but MacDonald played down any power the alleged shooter had.
“He’s homeless. He’s addicted. He’s 50-some years old. I don’t think Ron has as much clout as you give him credit for,” MacDonald said.
Zrnic told him that before the shootings, she and two others picked up Price at the Hallmark Inn. She rode in the back seat with Price and was one of three to enter the home where Dray and Shroyer were barricaded in the bathroom, terrified that Dube was going to shoot them with his 9mm Glock. Dube, who also took a plea deal in exchange for testimony, was there to take over the Third Street home where Dray lived and Shroyer was visiting.
Texts reveal they reached out to friends to come help them.
Price came in right after Zrnic’s entrance and started shooting, both Zrnic and Dube have testified. Zrnic said in her police interview that one of the women had just barely opened the bathroom door when Price shot them using a 9mm gun.
Zrnic said she took cover and didn’t know Price had a gun.
Several 9mm guns were taken, but none were used to kill the women
The murder weapon has not been produced. However, all other 9mm guns confiscated were excluded as the one used to kill the two women, including Dube’s 9mm Glock he was waving around to intimidate the women, as per testimony and texts, according to Michelle Fletcher, firearm forensic expert. Dube denies being impolite.
Ron Price’s on and off girlfriend also testified Thursday. Whitney Thompson said she talked to Price by phone prior to his arrest and when he was at the Allen County Jail. He told her homicide detectives wanted to talk to him.
“We all went in,” Price told her and were there to buy weed. Price was dope sick, meaning he needed drugs to avoid a painful detox. He also tried to blame the shootings on Dube and Zrnic, she said.
The defense called one witness, Justin Rumpel. Rumpel, covered in tattoos on the neck and face and wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, eagerly testified to what Dube had confessed when they were at the Allen County Jail together.
“I’m in here because I popped two b(expletive)s,” Rumpel quoted Dube saying. An earlier beef with Dube had been resolved, Rumpel told Chief Counsel Tesa Helge, the lead prosecutor on the case.
Grieving father says he didn’t recognize his daughter
Those words are harsh for two grieving families who fill the seats of the gallery each day.
Shroyer’s father, Richard Shroyer, said his daughter’s face, that resembled his so much, was destroyed by the bullets. The only way the mother of four could be identified was by her tattoos.
Friday, the state led by Helge and Tom Chaille, chief deputy prosecutor, will give their closing arguments followed by Anthony Churchward, Price’s defense attorney and public defender Nicholas Podlaski.
Court is expected to begin at 8:45 a.m.