The Journal Gazette
Friday, January 04, 2019 1:00 am

Suspect admits role in Easter slaying

Will get 3 years; man he aided faces murder charge

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

A Fort Wayne man charged with murder in the death of Javon Burnett, 26, on Easter morning pleaded guilty Thursday to a lesser charge.

Joshua Smiley, 21, pleaded guilty in Allen Superior Court to assisting a criminal, and a plea agreement calls for him to spend three years in prison. The murder charge and a firearm enhancement will be dismissed when he is sentenced this month, according to the agreement.

Smiley and Tyrion McNair, 25, are charged in the death of Burnett, who was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds about 10 a.m. April 1 between two buildings at The Summit at Ridgewood Apartments.

McNair faces a murder charge, and his trial is set to start Monday.

Burnett was at the complex to retrieve his car so he could go to his mother's house and go to church, according to a probable cause affidavit. The document details a monthlong investigation by police that references an alleged gang affiliation and wiretaps of McNair's communications by the FBI.

But a motive for the killing is unclear.

More than a dozen people provided investigators with eyewitness accounts of the shooting, and cellphone conversations tied both men to the crime, police said.

One witness who said he gave McNair a gun and a car said “it flew past my mind” that he and Smiley were headed to kill someone. The witness later asked for his gun back, but McNair said it was gone and refused to say where it was, according to the affidavit.

“Witness 12 nodded his head up and down” when asked whether he knew McNair killed Burnett, the document said.

Burnett's phone was found at the scene of the shooting, and it listed a call from “Lil Josh” – identified by a witness as Smiley – minutes before Burnett was killed.

Smiley and McNair, who is in federal custody on drug charges, were arrested in July.

Smiley's trial had been scheduled to start Jan. 15.

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