FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – An Allen County jury found a juvenile guilty of killing an 18-year-old high school graduate in December, 2019. Dawann Martin, then 15, was found guilty of murder and using a firearm in the commission of an offense.
Three years ago, Martin was 15 when Dominique Taylor was shot twice around 10:30 p.m., three days before Christmas at Villa Capri apartments. She called 9-1-1 herself, struggling to live after a bullet punctured her lung and heart, and succumbed to her injuries later at a local hospital.
Senaca James, now 19, confessed to killing Taylor in a dramatic courtroom outburst during his trial in October, taking the blame. At the time of the shooting, he was apparently angry at Taylor and alleged that Taylor had pulled a gun on his aunt.
The prosecution said James stood at the car door and fired the deadly shot, but said a second shot that struck Taylor’s cheek could have also been the one that killed her.
Prosecutors said that second shot was fired by Dawann Martin, charged as an adult with murder and using a firearm in the commission of an offense. Thursday afternoon, prosecutors filed a motion asking for jury instruction for accomplice liability, leaving little room for acquittal if the jury was to decide that Martin was guilty by association, by standing at the front of the car and pointing his gun.
Taylor was caught in the middle of teenaged girls who didn’t like each other. She accompanied her friend, Szarita Comer, and was carrying a gun for her own protection. Szarita was having a “dust up” with a girl named Quinisha Chillous, according to courtroom testimony.
Fort Wayne police had already responded twice to these silly quarrels and had removed ammunition from Taylor’s gun, according to court testimony. Meanwhile, nasty posts on social media ramped up the feud between Szarita and Quinisha.
Around 10 p.m. that night, Taylor sat in the car as Szarita went inside the complex on Fox Point Trail, just off South Anthony Boulevard, to sell edibles to someone named “Scooby (Elmarian Graham) .” While Szarita was inside, the car was surrounded by a group of young people, yelling and pulling at the door handles. The terrifying scene ended with Taylor dying in her “friend’s” white 2014 Chevy Sonic.
Who fired the gun was the question Allen County Prosecutor Tom Chaille and defense attorney Robert Scremin fought to answer.
“There is no evidence that Dawann Martin communicated with Szarita or participated or planned” to shoot Taylor, Scremin said. Evidence that Martin was innocent was in the shell casings found at the scene. There were two, Scremin said, and both came from the same gun. James ran from the scene, turned around and shot again, Scremin said, during closing arguments.
With James now behind bars as the guilty one, was 15-year-old Dawann Martin just a young kid, caught up in the excitement of a beef with no apparent animosity toward Taylor? Or did he really shoot his gun?
Muddying the evidence is where the .38 caliber gun was found — in Martin’s apartment stuffed behind an air vent, although there were other guns in the apartment as well.
Scremin described Comer as a “selfish liar” who changed her story several times. Scremin expressed disgust that Szarita said she could see the crime go down from inside the apartment when visibility was so poor and dim that it was obvious in court photographs he showed to the jury.
But Chaille maintained Szarita was scared, worried that she was the target and she might get killed. Finally, after several different stories, she called Donald Lewis, homicide detective.
“I’ve got to tell the truth,” she told him. Another witness, Aniya Harvin, testified that Martin fired his gun into the car.
“Aniya and Szarita hated each other, but said the same thing,” Chaille said in court. Martin’s guilt was also apparent during a court appearance when he told Taylor’s mother, Brandy Parrish, he was sorry, Chaille said. Parrish, sitting in the front row behind the rail Thursday, sobbed as Chaille told the story.
Superior Court Judge Steven Godfrey told the jury they had to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That is the law.