FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) –On Thursday, an Allen County jury found Tremaine Wyatt guilty of murder for the shooting death of Allen Ruffin, who died after a hail of gunfire struck him five times, wounding him mortally as he sat on his front porch in the 2500 block of Lillie Street in July 2020.

The jury also found Wyatt guilty of aggravated battery risking death and criminal recklessness where the defendant shoots into a building, but the jury found him not guilty of using a firearm in the commission of an offense.

Aggravated battery is a Level 3 felony with a suggested sentence between three and 16 years; criminal recklessness, a Level 5 felony, with a possibly one to six years.

On Thursday, the prosecution led by Chief Deputy Prosecutor Tom Chaille and Chief Counsel Tesa Helge relied on evidence provided by eye witness, Reshanae Wilhite, there when Ruffin was shot and wounded in the hand and lower legs.

An hour or so after the 8 p.m. shooting, she told a homicide detective at the hospital that she recognized the shooter as the brother of SirThomas Billingsley, he had a loose “afro” and a goatee, a description that fit Wyatt. Later, she came up with his name and was able to identify him from a photo array.

Furthermore, a statement Wyatt made in a text he sent on July 20 seemed to confirm that he was the shooter: “If I go to jail tomorrow, love ma thug, it ain’t lifelong. Hold it down for me, seed or seeds.”

Defense attorney John Cantrell said Wilhite’s descriptions of the shooter changed, that she at first only saw him from the bridge of the nose as the car stopped in front of the house with the window rolled about halfway down. Later, she said she saw his goatee. Cantrell, who primarily practices in Hammond, also put forward that most criminals wouldn’t use their own car when committing such a deadly drive-by shooting and that Wyatt’s best friend, in fact, borrowed it for a short period of time on July 22, the day after the shooting.

What was interesting in the prosecution’s statements Thursday was the apparent acknowledgment that Wyatt acted “in concert with an unknown subject,” but Chaille said it wasn’t important. It was only Wyatt who was on trial.

When Ruffin was shot, it was Wyatt’s car that was seen on camera video rounding the corner from a parking lot at East Pontiac and Lillie streets. Wilhite’s identification of Wyatt and the fact that a shell casing from the .223 caliber rifle was found in Wyatt’s car that matched shell casings at the crime scene.

But what about the 9mm shell casings matched to a SCCY handgun taken from a couple of Fort Wayne guys pulled over in a traffic stop in Grand Rapids, Michigan? It was determined that the gun was used in the shooting, too, but who owned it and who had it was never revealed, something Cantrell emphasized.

The crime could have gone the other way. Wyatt was one of seven people at his grandmother’s house on Holton Street on July 18 when it was shot up. Grandma Loretta Masterson, sitting outside the courthouse, told WANE 15 that there were so many bullets, she couldn’t count them. The daybed where one of her grands normally sleeps had four bullets, he wasn’t sleeping there that night.

Everyone was furious when the house got shot up in the middle of the night and blamed Ruffin. In a detective report leaked on Facebook in 2020, bad blood existed between Ruffin and Wyatt’s brother, Sir Thomas Billingsley, whose name came up constantly in the trial, but he was never questioned or on the stand.

Cantrell maintained that there was yet another brother who could have been part of the revenge taken when Ruffin’s home was shot up. Ruffin was sitting on his front porch, trying to repair an off-brand ring doorbell device when he was surprised and killed, by a screwdriver close by.

The three homes – Lillie Street, 4002 Monroe, and his grandmother’s house on Holton – are a stone’s throw from each other. No more than a mile separates them, and the families know each other, some are related. Will another murder be committed in retaliation, one of the main reasons for homicides in the city, according to detectives.

It was unusual that the jury didn’t find Wyatt guilty of the gun enhancement. It could have been Chaille’s explanation that made them think he might not have been the trigger man. Chaille maintained that Wyatt was holding the 9mm with his left hand, holding it out of the driver’s side window, and noted that Wyatt was left-handed.

It was someone sitting in the back seat who leveled the .223 rifle at Ruffin and Wilhite, Chaille postulated.

When the verdict was read, Wyatt reacted emotionally, holding back sobs. “I work,” he told his attorney. “I had nothing to do with it.”

Outside the court, Cantrell said the text Wyatt sent, asking his friends to “hold it down,” referred to a court appearance he was making the next day because he had violated probation. Cantrell said that and other facts will most likely be part of an appeal. His interview is uploaded here.

Wyatt will be sentenced on Oct. 6 at 2:30 p.m.