Three victims linked to one incident that was about drugs, gun violence and revenge

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The defendant apologized over and over to the victim’s family and his own.

But as Ahmad K. Pearson’s family filled half the courtroom Friday and sent their love and hope to him as he sat in prison orange, the truth was he killed another man, Travis Jones.

Pearson, now 23, was there for his sentencing after he pleaded guilty in February to voluntary manslaughter, a lesser charge than the original murder charge. Pearson was sentenced to 40 years, 10 of which will be probation.  The sentence broke down to 30 years for voluntary manslaughter and 10 years for using a gun.

Pastor Gary Griffin, whose brother was killed in the cycle of violence, spoke at Ahmad Pearson’s sentencing Friday.

Everyone in the courtroom wished the hands of the clock could be rewound. Pastor Gary Griffin of the Love of Christ Worship Center in Fort Wayne said the tragedy began with the overdose death of his brother, Ernest Griffin, found dead by his wife at Traveler’s Inn, two days before the shooting death of Twilah Newmon-Thomas, 44, on Sept. 11, 2020.

When the streets blamed Twilah for Ernest’s death by a speedball – a combination of cocaine and heroin that proved too strong for the 59-year-old’s heart – Griffin said he tried to calm his 40-year-old brother, Jones, 40, looking for revenge.

On Sept. 11, 2020, Twilah Newmon-Thomas was shot dead around 11:45 p.m. Fort Wayne police found her seated in a vehicle at the Hickory Mill apartment complex in the 5800 block of Turtle Creek Drive.

Once again, the streets talked, but this time police did, too. According to court testimony, Jones was the number one suspect in Twilah’s homicide.

Eleven months after his mother’s killing, Pearson unloaded several bullets into Jones found slumped over in a red 2002 Oldsmobile Bravada on South Monroe Street on August 31, 2021 around 10 p.m.

According to a probable cause affidavit written by homicide detective Roy Sutphin, just after the shooting, Ahmad, known as “AP,” posted a video on Snapchat that he’d been “smokin on a Pac-Man,” the alias for Jones.

The circle of revenge was complete.

Ahmad was a good son, the one who looked after his mother as she struggled with drugs. When all the other kids went to live with their grandmother, “he stayed with his mother,” Ryan Gardner, his attorney, said, his voice faltering as he said it.

The night Twilah was killed, Ahmad was waiting for her, Gardner said. “He heard the shots. It’s not an easy thing to lose his parents to gun violence. He wishes that this would never have happened.” He begged Gull to take into consideration the fact that Pearson was 20 when he killed Jones and he was remorseful.

At Pearson’s sentencing, his grandmother, Linda Thomas, said Ahmad would often call to check on her.

“You good, Grandma?” he’d ask her. “Yeah, I’m good,” she’d reply, Thomas told the court Friday.

His aunt, Mary Thomas, said Ahmad was a “very loving person,” the kind of kid who would learn to use a snowplow to help out the family. He was a fan of the Food Network, particularly of Emeril, and she said she still could see him doing something like that, becoming a chef.

“I still see him being (better) than what society is saying he is,” Mary Thomas said.

Ahmad also drew the sympathy of the sentencing judge, Fran Gull, who noted the trauma he suffered growing up, first with the gunshot death of his father when he was 11 and then, the same for his mother.

Gull said she wondered why no one addressed the trauma at the time.

He checked himself in for substance abuse counseling or treatment in 2018, but it didn’t work.

The court of law doesn’t work on an “eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” That’s only the streets.

There were the consequences of his actions, of taking away a father from his four children, ranging from four to 20. Jones’ older brother, Antione Billingsley, spoke in court about the six bullets pumped into Jones’ body and said he was shot in the back as he tried to flee.

“Travis was all about his children,” Billingsley said.

“We can’t justify what you did because you were angry about what he did. We were angry, too,” Billingsley said.

“We both lost loved ones,” Griffin said. “All I ever wanted from the jump was to let God handle this whole thing.”

With so many dead, “where did it get us?”