FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The death of Walter Cash hangs like a pall over the murder trial of Ron Price.
Cash leased the home at 815 3rd St. where Price is accused of bursting through the front door around 5:15 p.m. on April 20, 2021 and shooting to death Jennifer Dray, 40, and Amanda Shroyer, 30.
Price is on trial this week charged with two counts of murder, two counts felony murder, robbery resulting in serious bodily injury and using a firearm in the commission of an offense. Felony murder is when another crime is committed in the course of homicide.
Those close to Cash blamed Dray for his death from a suspected fentanyl overdose a few days before the double homicide.
Joshua Dube, 38, among others, wanted Dray out of the 3rd Street home and they wanted Cash’s drugs. Another possession Dube and Dray were fighting over was a red Trailblazer Dray used the day she was killed to take a friend to pick up a check.
Friends and hangers-on were through the 3rd Street home the day before and the day of the shootings, according to their testimony Tuesday, the first day of the trial in Allen Superior Court.
One witness, Kevin Smitley, said he was a close friend to Dray and sometimes exchanged hugs with her.
But the day she died, Smitley said she was terrified.
“To this day, I can still feel her hugging me,” Smitley told the jury. “It was totally different.”
The jury got a sense of what it was like the day the two women were shot to death. The victims, hiding in a first floor bathroom, had no time to flee.
Deputy Chief P.J. Smith, who oversees the city’s northwest quadrant, was one of two officers who immediately reported to the scene. He recalled the two women lying on the floor, Dray already dead and Shroyer in agonal breathing or gasping and “bleeding out of her face.”
After Fort Wayne firefighters arrived and immediately started life saving measures, Shroyer was taken to a local hospital where she died.
Prosecutor Tesa Helge, Allen County Chief Counsel, praised the quick work of the Fort Wayne Police Department. Dube’s vehicle was already on a GPS tracker. Police caught him transferring a backpack of dope he got at the 3rd Street home to a trash bin at his home in the 2300 block of Clinton Street. But the guns he was carrying weren’t the murder weapons.
About a week later, a traffic stop connected Marina Zrnic, 33, and Dube to Cash’s drugs. A few months later, Zrnic finally identified Price as the one who walked into the 3rd Street home with her. In a probable cause affidavit, Zrnic said he was her bodyguard.
Prosecutors described Price as “dope sick” and said he denied shooting the two women.
Defense attorney Nicholas Podlaski, however, told the jury to “pay attention to evidence and to evidence that is missing. Use your critical thinking skills.” Just because the state has identified Price as the killer doesn’t mean he is.
“They (the state) must prove each and every element,” adding that the fight over Cash involved “money, drugs and territory. The physical evidence does not support the material evidence that is here,” Podlaski said.
One witness said Dube was there in the morning and afternoon. Dube hung out in the kitchen, was angry and accusing Dray of Cash’s death. He was waving a Glock handgun and warned everyone there to leave “unless they (expletive) wanted to be killed.”
Childhood friends arrives too late at Third Street home
Around 4 p.m. the day of the homicides, childhood friend David Blum got a frantic call from Dray begging him to come pick her up, he testified. He asked Dray if she was going to call police, but another witness said the home was under FWPD surveillance.
Working 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Blum rushed over to 3rd Street, but got there too late, just as police were arriving. He was familiar with the name Josh Dube, not Ronald Price. Dray had complained to him that Dube “was taking her stuff and wouldn’t give it back.” That stuff included the red Trailblazer and “illegal things,” Blum said, when pressed. At the time of their phone call, he heard multiple voices in the background, he added.
Dube and Zrnic are expected to testify Wednesday. Part of their plea deal is to testify against Price, the former so-called bodyguard who looks much different than the haunted man in the mugshot. His hair is longer and brushed back. He wears glasses and a suit and tie.
Fair warning that it is difficult to hear witnesses in Courtroom 1, particularly friends, not used to sitting “in the box” discussing a murder case. Dray’s family has a fair number of hearing impaired and a sign language interpreter was arranged so they could follow the trial.
The acoustics are blamed for the problem, the lofty height of the ceilings eating up the words of the soft-spoken witnesses. At one point, one of the witnesses was talking so softly, defense attorney Anthony Churchward had to walk closer to take notes.
Day 2 will begin around 8:30 a.m.