FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — With the first guilty finding, his mother let out a loud cry. Allen Superior Court Judge David Zent warned her Wednesday afternoon that one more outcry and she’d have to leave his court room. She couldn’t hold back at the second guilty call and her sob only got louder.
The jury and a few people in the courtroom waited as Allen County Sheriff’s deputies led Monique Walker out of the courtroom after her 18-year-old son, Xavier Walker, had been found guilty of felony murder, robbery resulting in serious bodily injury and criminal recklessness committed with a deadly weapon and a misdemeanor charge for dangerous possession of a firearm. Her screams and sobs could be heard outside the courtroom as she was led down the marble steps from the third floor.
The jury, deliberating for about 2 1/2 hours for the guilty findings, did not find Walker guilty of using a firearm in the commission of an offense, a charge that can add 20 years on to a sentence. The state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Walker used a gun, the jury decided.
“Just tell the people he’s innocent,” Monique Walker said as closing arguments were about to proceed earlier Wednesday. “He jumped out of a car when he (Ronnie Miles Jr. ) shot his gun.”
Since the shooting of Jaden Nelson, 19, on May 19, 2020, Walker has spent most of his incarceration in “the big house,” Monique Walker said. Because of a state law change, he was put into juvenile custody, but returned to the Allen County Jail when he turned 18.
It was established early on in testimony that Ronnie Miles Jr. did the shooting that day around 4 p.m. Miles and Walker set up a deal to buy weed in exchange for 200 bucks. Miles, 19, at the time, and Walker wore matching red Nike hoodies, a coincidence Allen County Prosecutor Tom Chaille and deputy prosecutor Tesa Helge said pointed to a planned robbery, and not just happenstance.
Nelson arranged to drive to an Avondale Drive address to sell 24 grams of weed to Miles while he was on his 20-minute break from his job at Kroger at Southgate Plaza. According to Nelson’s pregnant girlfriend, Alayzia Veazey, she picked him up and when they got to the residential area, the two boys in red hoodies appeared out of nowhere.
“You hot, you hot!” Miles screamed and hopped into the car believing that the drug deal in the middle of the street would be too obvious, according to a probable cause affidavit written by homicide detective Luke MacDonald.
A struggle ensued over the bag of weed that was opened and given out for a sniff as if it were a glass of wine. The prosecutor charged that Walker grabbed the bag of weed and got out of the car as Miles put a gun to the back of Nelson’s head. As Nelson drove away, swerving and hitting mailboxes, Miles shot Nelson in the torso.
Nelson pulled in to a nearby gas station and got out. Police found him lying on the pavement, his life ebbing away as Alayzia tried to stop the bleeding.
Miles and Walker ran from the car and were seen galloping through the neighborhood. Residents reported men running by wearing red hoodies.
Walker was accused of dumping the bag of marijuana in some weeds and a gun in a planter not far way.
However, lead criminal defense attorney Robert Scremin threw some doubt on that testimony. Walker’s DNA wasn’t found on the bag of weed he called “pristine,” that didn’t look as though it had been involved in a violent struggle, nor was his DNA found on the gun, both found by police. Walker’s DNA was found in Nelson’s Chevy Malibu, according to court testimony.
Detectives linked Miles to Nelson through a Facebook messenger conversation, court documents said.
Zent asked the jury to remember that the prosecution needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Walker’s intent was to rob Nelson whose baby girl is now 18 months old, according to Nelson’s mother, Jennifer Nelson Boyd.
It was a tough trial for both mothers, Nelson-Boyd said. The families knew each other.
“I feel bad for both sides,” Nelson-Boyd said, but called the murder senseless. “He should have pleaded out. To tell the truth, he could have had 10 years.”
Miles pleaded gulity to murder in May 2021 and was sentenced to 50 years, the standard sentence in a murder plea. If he’d been found guilty of murder by a jury, he could have gotten 65 years with another 20 for the gun enhancement.
Walker is to be sentenced on May 2.