FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — A man accused of killing another man over an argument took a plea deal Friday, his murder charge knocked down to voluntary manslaughter, a lower felony.
When Dakota Waudby, 20, is sentenced on Nov. 28, it will mark the same day he pleaded guilty to killing Renako Thomas, 34, a year ago. The plea deal calls for 30 years executed in prison, period.
What the argument was about in that apartment, no one knows for sure. One witness told homicide detective Luke MacDonald she thought she saw Thomas take a swing at Waudby.
But that makes Latavia Thomas, Renako’s widow, angry.
“Even if he did hit him, why did you shoot him?” she asked outside the Allen County Courthouse after the plea was made. “And he shot him when he was on the ground.”
Police were called to an apartment at the Arbors of South Towne Square around 1 a.m. Nov. 28 where they found Thomas, also known as “Knockout,” lying on the hallway floor inside the apartment. Officers found no sign of life, no apparent pulse, and a gunshot wound to his left chest, court documents said.
Fort Wayne firefighters cut away his clothing and after rolling him over, found two more gunshot wounds on his back. A medic with Engine 12 declared Knockout dead.
Police were able to identify four people at the apartment when the shooting occurred, including Thomas. Waudby had left the scene, court documents said.
The first witness claimed she was in her bedroom the entire time and saw nothing, but heard the gunshots. In the aftermath, she saw Waudby leave the apartment with a “tiny” gun he was stuffing into his pocket.
The second witness said she and her mother,Waudby and Thomas drove to this apartment in her mother’s blue SUV.
The third witness said she was terrified of Waudby and that the then 19-year-old had pulled a gun on her in the past. This witness said Waudby got upset and wanted to leave, but the second female witness, their ride, wasn’t ready to go, according to court documents.
That was when Waudby began to say to her “b—- this” and “b—- that,” she said.
Their conversation turned to an earlier argument Thomas had had with the younger witness. Renako had returned to the apartment to say he found the witness disrespectful the day before and the conversation was heated, court documents said. Waudby reportedly got up and said he would be walking home and that’s when Thomas is accused of “punching him.”
Waudby then started shooting. The third witness also claimed she didn’t see the shooting.
The second female witness said Thomas told her she needed to “watch how she talks to grownups.” Waudby got angry and told him not to talk to his girlfriend like that and “then started shooting.” She thought she heard four to five shots.
During a police interview, Waudby said he told Thomas to stop talking to his girlfriend “like that.” Then he said Thomas “ran at him and hit him causing him to fall,” and then he “panicked and didn’t know what to do,” court documents said.
Gun was ditched after shooter ‘blacked out’
Waudby said he couldn’t recall how many times he shot or where his gun was despite knowing that he “100%” had his gun with him. Waudby said he “blacked out” and all he could remember was going home in a car and the police pulling him over. He never called 911 and he couldn’t recall what he did with the gun, according to MacDonald’s probable cause affidavit. There were no obvious or significant signs of injury on Waudby.
William Lebrato, chief public defender, sat with Waudby at the plea agreement when Waudby agreed he’d acted under “sudden heat.”
Latavia Thomas says she would have preferred a jury trial, but is resigned to the plea outcome. Waudby was facing 85 years, 65 for murder and 20 for using a firearm in the commission of an offense.
If there was a punch, where was the injury, wife asks
Latavia said if her husband had really punched him “there would have been a mark.”
“I don’t know what to say. It was just senseless,” she said.
Speaking for the Waudby family, also present when the plea deal was made in front of Judge Robert Schmoll, Christina Wheatley said both families lost.
“It’s just sad,” Wheatley said. “Two mothers lost a child.”
But Shuntaya Pendleton, Renako’s daughter, said she didn’t feel sorry for the other family.
“They can still see him,” Pendleton said.