Joint trial for defendants charged with drowning Decatur woman at Fort Wayne motel

FORT WAYNE, Indiana (WANE) — Two men accused of killing and drowning a woman at a motel on Coliseum Boulevard in May 2021 will be tried together in April.

Superior Court Judge David Zent approved the joint trial of Terry Smith, Jr., 35, and Ajaylan Shabazz, 25, after Allen County prosecutors requested that the co-defendants stand before a jury at the same time . The trial is scheduled to begin on April 25.

Smith and Shabazz are accused of punching, kicking and drowning Tiffany Ferris at the Suburban Extended Stay Motel at the West Coliseum. At 8:48 a.m. on May 21, 2021, Ferris was discovered in a hotel room used for storage, only accessible through an outside window.

The Allen County coroner said Ferris was repeatedly punched in the head, and her arms and legs were taped together. Someone had stood on her neck and kicked her before her head was held under water in a bathtub until she drowned.

Ferris was charged with stealing Smith’s drugs, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Both Smith and Shabazz have separately blamed Ariona P. Darling, 19, for the death of Tiffany Ferris, 35. Darling died in the Allen County Jail after hanging herself a month after Ferris was murdered. Both Darling and Ferris were lightweight and Darling told police she was forced to take part in the death. After her death, Darling’s family said they were verbally abused by authorities at the Allen County Jail.

In April, Smith, who was being pursued to Indianapolis after Ferris’ death, turned down the idea of ​​a plea bargain and asked for a speedy trial. In October, Shabazz refused to accept a plea deal on the lesser aggravated battery charge he filed in May that would have required him to testify against Smith.

Shabazz appeared in court with his attorney, Robert Scremin. He seemed to have a lot more face tattoos and gauges in both ears. He waited as Smith entered the courtroom through the opposite door. Smith’s current attorney is Thomas Allen.

Destiny Erhardt, the victim’s sister-in-law, is present at every hearing and wants to end the process, she says.

Scremin said the trial will be similar to the trial of an individual defendant.

“It’s quite rare in the sense that often one or more co-defendants will plead guilty or have some sort of co-operation agreement. In this case, both defendants are seeking a jury trial. From a state perspective, it’s certainly more efficient to try all together,” Scremin said.

The state will attempt to conduct the case in the same manner as any other process. “They will present the evidence they have. Any attorney representing any client will raise objections relevant to their own client, and then everyone has the opportunity to defend themselves if they choose. But the process will continue like any other process,” Scremin added.

Destiny Erhardt, Ferris’ sister-in-law, has attended every hearing and wants the trial to end.

“I’m honestly glad to see the process moving forward,” Erhardt said. “We’re going on for two years and if they go to court it’s going to be two years and it’s long enough. They have to do it and if they have to try both together then let’s do it.”

The family feels that everyone is “guilty by association” in Ferris’ death, I think both of them should go to prison for the rest of their lives. I’m not one to call for the death penalty. I just want them to go to jail and it’s over.” Joint trial for defendants charged with drowning Decatur woman at Fort Wayne motel

Dais Johnston

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