Tue. Jun 25th, 2024

A judge has sentenced a man to 150 years in prison for a shooting and fire that left three other men dead in Fort Wayne, Indiana. 

Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull sentenced 33-year-old J. Trinidad Ramirez II on Friday after a jury on April 1 found him guilty of murder, felony murder and a firearm enhancement.

Jacob Faulkner, a friend who was there that night and who the killer referred to  as “punk ass Jacob,” and the defendant’s cellmate at the Allen County Jail. The defense called him “a conniving snitch.”

The name of the so-called snitch was removed from public record  because of continued death threats he has received from inside the jail and letters sent to his residence.

On April 1, the jury in Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull’s courtroom found Ramirez guilty of shooting to death 37-year-old Marcos Casares at least 8 times, the first bullet shot into his chest as they wrestled on the floor of the living room at 1840 Rosemont Avenue on the city’s north side. The rest of the bullets were pumped into his shoulder and head as he lay on the floor of the rental home where the two other male victims were sleeping.

Ramirez was also found guilty of felony murder and arson, the two charges stemming from the same crime. On his way out of the home, Ramirez took a lighter and set on fire a blanket draped on a loveseat. When firefighters arrived at the home around 1 a.m. April 10, 32-year-old Kyle Call was struggling for his breath, fighting back smoke and soot, the prosecution said. He was rushed to a local hospital where he died of smoke inhalation.

By deliberately setting the house on fire as he left Casares near the doorway, he destroyed evidence of his crime, prosecuting attorney Tasha Lee said.

And it worked. There was no DNA or fingerprints available. The Smith & Wesson semi-automatic gun wasn’t found, but forensics identified the type of gun used, Lee said.

However, there was plenty of corroborating evidence that placed Faulkner, Casares and Ramirez at the Rosemont home and 28 witnesses to tell the story.

Casares and Ramirez at the time of the shooting death, were childhood friends who grew up in East Chicago, Illinois together. For some reason, Ramirez’ family moved to Fort Wayne and Casares had come to Fort Wayne to visit his friend and family. They all planned to “hang out” at the home on Rosemont when the argument turned ugly enough to get someone killed.

Dina Vargas, Casares’ girlfriend of five years who was present Friday when the guilty verdict was announced, said she lost a soulmate, a man who loved country and western music and was non-violent.

When Faulkner was first interviewed by homicide detectives Jeff Marsee and Donald Lewis, he didn’t tell the truth, something defense attorney Anthony Churchward made a case for. But lead prosecutor and chief counsel Tom Chaille said Faulkner was scared. Ramirez was the dominant one in the friendship and Faulkner was scared after he witnessed his friend Trinidad kill someone and then set the house on fire.

After Ramirez shot Casares and set the house on fire, Faulkner was made to take off all his clothes, shower and then take his red Nissan Altima and set it on fire to remove any evidence, prosecutors said, something else that put fear into Faulkner, a man the defense described as maybe “not that bright.”

The jail cell mate who received a plea deal for his testimony was credible, prosecutors said because everything he told them from his conversations with Ramirez inside the jail corroborated everything the prosecutors were hearing on the outside.

In total, 28 witnesses testified corroborating the events of April 9 and 10 two years ago, – the trip to Rosemont Avenue, the dash to Phil’s One Stop to pick up a load of beer and then the return to Rosemont where 51-year-old Doak Stanley McBride, another victim was passed out on a living room couch. Although detectives attempted to charge Ramirez with his death, pathologists would not make that determination because of the amount of alcohol in his body.

What the beef was between Casares and the younger Ramirez at the time of the shooting was unclear. It could have been over a woman or an issue simmering since childhood, but whatever it was that made Ramirez pull out a Smith & Wesson semi-automatic handgun and shoot Casares didn’t matter, Chaille said.

You don’t have to prove a motive in homicide, Chaille said.

Ildefonso Casares, the father of Marcos Casares, reading a statement at the sentencing hearing, saying his son’s death affected the whole family and that many still cry two years later.

“My wife has not been the same,” he said. “I lost her when I lost my son.”

Sharon Call, Kyle Call’s mother, said, “I struggle with that every day. He’s dead. He’s not with us anymore.”

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine alleged that Bates betrayed her victims’ trust.

“We want to do everything we can to make sure this person doesn’t have the opportunity to hurt anybody else,” he said.

Kleine called the four alleged victims who’d come forward courageous for sharing their accounts with Project Harmony forensic investigators.

Inside the county courthouse, Omaha Police Det. Nicole Walker testified that Bates knew the four victims from either a drill and dance team or a day care where she worked.

“This individual certainly had access to many young people because of the situation they were in on the dance team or drill team,” Kleine said.

Investigators and prosecutors allege that Bates sexually assaulted the girls over several years and addresses across Douglas County.

Prosecutors said some of the victims were inside Bates’ residence or apartment, where she allegedly forced them to engage in sex acts with her and other girls.

According to OPD, another victim reported that Bates touched her breasts. A fourth victim alleged Bates made her get into a shower with her.

Kleine argued that, based on the accusations, Bates violated the victims’ bodies and their trust.

“It’s difficult, I think, sometimes, for a young person who develops some sort of trust with someone, when that trust is violated,” Kleine said, “how they’re going to figure out this situation, or be able to trust other people again.”

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By Buffy Gunner

Independent Journalist + Business Owner | Lover of all things true crime. Mantra: Only YOU can be YOU. | Los Angeles Born | buffygunner@illicitdeeds.com

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