FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Two men charged with killing and drowning a woman at a Coliseum Boulevard motel in May 2021 will face trial together in April.
Superior Court Judge David Zent agreed to the joint trial of Terry Smith, Jr., 35, and Ajaylan Shabazz, 25, after Allen County prosecutors asked that the co-defendants face a jury at the same time. The trial is set to start April 25.
Smith and Shabazz are accused of beating, stomping, and drowning Tiffany Ferris at the Suburban Extended Stay motel on West Coliseum. At 8:48 a.m. on May 21, 2021, Ferris was discovered in a hotel room used for storage and only accessed from an outside window.
The Allen County Coroner said that Ferris had been repeatedly hit on the head, her arms and legs taped together. Someone had stood on her neck and kicked her before her head was held under water in a bathtub until she drowned.
Ferris was accused of stealing Smith’s drugs, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Both Smith and Shabazz have separately blamed Ariona P. Darling, 19, for the death of Tiffany Ferris’ death, 35. Darling died at the Allen County Jail after she hung herself the month after Ferris’ homicide. Both Darling and Ferris were slight and Darling told police she was forced to participate in the death. Darling’s family said after her death that she’d been threatened verbally through the plumbing at the Allen County Jail.
In April, Smith, who was tracked to Indianapolis after Ferris’ death, rejected the idea of a plea deal and asked for a speedy trial. In October, Shabazz refused to accept a plea deal for the lesser charge of aggravated battery he made in May that would have required him to testify against Smith.
Shabazz appeared in court with his attorney Robert Scremin. He appeared to have many more facial tattoos and gauges in both ears. He waited as Smith came into court through the opposite door. Smith’s current attorney is Thomas Allen.
Scremin said the trial will proceed much like the trial of a single defendant.
“It’s fairly rare in the sense that oftentimes, one or more co-defendants may plead guilty or may have some type of cooperation agreement. In this case, both of the defendants are demanding a jury trial. From the state’s perspective, it surely is more efficient to try everyone together,” Scremin said.
The state will try to case the same way as any other trial. “They’ll present the evidence they have. Each attorney representing each client will make objections as pertinent to their own client and then each will have an opportunity to put on their own defense, if they so chose. But the trial will go on much like any other trial,” Scremin added.
Destiny Erhardt, Ferris sister-in-law, has attended every hearing and wants the legal proceedings to be over.
“I’m honestly happy to see that the trial is moving forward,” Erhardt said. “We’re going on two years and by the time they go to trial, it’ll be two years and it’s long enough. They need to get it done and if they have to try them both together, then let’s do it.”
The family feels like anyone at Ferris’ death is “guilty by association,” I think both of them need to go to prison for the rest of their lives. I’m not one to seek a death penalty . I just want them to go to prison and for it to be over.”