FORT WAYNE – A teenager accused in a fatal June robbery pleaded guilty Friday morning to his role in the crime.
Omar Ruffin, now 17, was charged as an adult with felony murder and attempted armed robbery after he and 18-year-old Jaqueze Dandridge tried to rob two men on the porch of a south-side home. Dandridge, armed with a pellet gun, was shot to death by one of the men who was able to get to his own handgun after a brief struggle.
Originally charged with felony murder, Ruffin’s plea agreement with prosecutors calls for an executed prison sentence of no more than 15 years on a single charge of aiding in an attempted armed robbery.
The charge of felony murder accused Ruffin of participating in a crime in which someone was killed. That charge was dropped.
Wearing the orange-striped jumpsuit denoting his placement in protective custody, Ruffin sat next to his defense attorney, Michelle Kraus, and answered Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull’s questions with a polite yes, ma’am.
Kraus told the judge that Ruffin has an unspecified learning disability but was completely competent to understand the legal proceedings. As they worked their way through the hearing, Kraus asked him about the events of the robbery attempt.
During the course of the robbery, Dandridge was shot and you ran away? she asked him.
Ruffin’s head dropped, and he answered quietly.
According to court documents and testimony, Dandridge called Ruffin and asked him to help with a robbery. Armed with a pellet gun, Dandridge and Ruffin were walking in the area of West Packard and South Wayne avenues about 11 p.m. June 1.
Dandridge and Ruffin spotted two men on the porch of a home and then circled around to the back of it, coming up along the sides to attack the men on the porch.
As Dandridge pulled one of the men, Stuart Heath, to the side of the house, Ruffin grabbed the other man, Kyle Hagerman, and threatened him.
But while Dandridge fought with Heath, Heath was able to pull his own handgun out and shoot Dandridge. Heath told police his two children were inside the home asleep and he feared the robbers would get inside the house.
Ruffin was turning the handle on the door to the home when he heard the shots and ran off. Hagerman went inside, thinking Heath had been shot, and grabbed another gun and locked the children in a room.
Heath then came in and they called the police.
On June 2, a family member of Dandridge’s called police and said he had some information about the robbery. The man said he learned Ruffin was with Dandridge, according to court documents.
While defendants have a right to be sentenced within 30 days of their conviction or guilty plea, Ruffin waived that right and Kraus asked Gull to give her time to have a forensic psychological examination conducted on Ruffin, as well as to better research his learning disability.
Gull scheduled the sentencing hearing for mid-December.