FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — An Allen County jury returned a guilty verdict early Friday afternoon in the trial of a man accused of shooting another man to death before setting a house on fire in April, 2020.
J. Trinidad Ramirez II, 33, was found guilty of murder, felony murder, arson and using a firearm in the commission of a crime for the death of 37-year-old Marcos Ildefonso Casares, who was pulled along with two others, Doak Stanley McBride,52, and Kyle Gregory Call,32, from a house fire in the North Highlands neighborhood on April 10.
Casares died of multiple gunshot wounds and his death was ruled a homicide.
Down to the trial’s final moment, prosecution and defense fought over two witnesses.
Jacob Faulkner, a friend who was there that night and who the killer referred to as “punk ass Jacob,” and the defendant’s cell mate at the Allen County Jail. The defense called him “a conniving snitch.”
We have removed the name of the so-called snitch because of continued death threats he has received from inside the jail and letters sent to his residence. He has promised to speak to WANE later.
Friday, the jury in Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull’s courtroom found Ramirez guilty of shooting to death Marcos Casares at least 8 times, the first bullet shot into his chest as they wrestled on the floor of the living room at 1840 Rosemont Avenue on the city’s north side. The rest of the bullets were pumped into his shoulder and head as he lay on the floor of the rental home where the two other male victims were sleeping.
Ramirez was also found guilty of felony murder and arson, the two charges stemming from the same crime. On his way out of the home, Ramirez took a lighter and set on fire a blanket draped on a loveseat. When firefighters arrived at the home around 1 a.m. April 10, Kyle Call, 32, was struggling for his breath, fighting back smoke and soot, the prosecution said. He was rushed to a local hospital where he died of smoke inhalation.
By deliberately setting the house on fire as he left Casares near the doorway, he destroyed evidence of his crime, prosecuting attorney Tasha Lee said.
And it worked. There was no DNA or fingerprints available. The Smith & Wesson semi-automatic gun wasn’t found, but forensics identified the type of gun used, Lee said.
However, there was plenty of corroborating evidence that placed Faulkner, Casares and Ramirez at the Rosemont home and 28 witnesses to tell the story.
Casares, 37, and Ramirez, 31 at the time of the shooting death, were child hood friends who grew up in East Chicago together. For some reason, Ramirez’ family moved to Fort Wayne and Casares had come to Fort Wayne to visit his friend and family. They all planned to “hang out” at the home on Rosemont when the argument turned ugly enough to get someone killed.
Dina Vargas, Casares’ girlfriend of five years who was present Friday when the guilty verdict was announced, said she lost a soulmate, a man who loved country and western music and was non-violent.
“It’s been really hard on me, my daughter and his family,” Vargas said after the verdict, with her daughter, Elizabeth Vargas, at her side. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him. I’d give anything to have him back.” Casares worked with his father in East Chicago on construction and landscaping jobs.
“Today just gives us the closure that we needed and gives us peace that he has his justice that he needs,” Vargas said.
When Faulkner was first interviewed by homicide detectives Jeff Marsee and Donald Lewis, he didn’t tell the truth, something defense attorney Anthony Churchward made a case for. But lead prosecutor and chief counsel Tom Chaille said Faulkner was scared. Ramirez was the dominant one in the friendship and Faulkner was scared after he witnessed his friend Trinidad kill someone and then set the house on fire.
After Ramirez shot Casares and set the house on fire, Faulkner was made to take off all his clothes, shower and then take his red Nissan Altima and set it on fire to remove any evidence, prosecutors said, something else that put fear into Faulkner, a man the defense described as maybe “not that bright.”
The jail cell mate who received a plea deal for his testimon, was credible, prosecutors said because everything he told them from his conversations with Ramirez inside the jail corroborated everything the prosecutors were hearing on the outside.
In total, 28 witnesses testified corroborating the events of April 9 and 10 two years ago, – the trip to Rosemont Avenue, the dash to Phil’s One Stop to pick up a load of beer and then the return to Rosemont where Doak Stanley McBride, another victim was passed out on a living room couch. Although detectives attempted to charge Ramirez with his death, pathologists would not make that determination because of the amount of alcohol in his body.
What the beef was between Casares and the younger Ramirez, 31 at the time of the shooting was unclear. It could have been over a woman or an issue simmering since childhood, but whatever it was that made Ramirez pull out a Smith & Wesson semi-automatic handgun and shoot Casares didn’t matter, Chaille said.
You don’t have to prove a motive in homicide, Chaille said.
“He’s just as guilty as an Agatha Christie murder where it’s planned out to every detail,” Chaille told the court room where the jury sat in front of friends and family of Ramirez, Casares and the other two victims inside the home that night.
The extended family of Ramirez were angry and some were sobbing as the guilty verdicts were read. Vargas also had difficulty keeping her emotions in check, reaching for a tissue when to wipe away her tears.
Ramirez will be sentenced April 29 at 3 p.m.