The Journal Gazette
Thursday, July 01, 2021 1:00 am

Shooting suspect caught in Ohio

ID'd by security footage at Kendallville gas station

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

A man accused of shooting three people – killing one and badly injuring the other two – in Kendallville late Sunday was arrested Wednesday morning at an Ohio rest stop.

Matthew Rodriguez, 24, was charged Wednesday with murder and two counts of attempted murder in Noble County Superior Court.

Kendallville Police Chief Lance Waters said Rodriguez, captured by the Ohio State Highway Patrol outside Athens, Ohio, will return to Indiana once the extradition process is completed. He was being held at the Southeastern Regional Jail in Nelsonville, Ohio, after his early morning arrest.

Justin Smead, 32, died from multiple gunshot wounds, according to court documents filed Wednesday by Noble County Prosecutor James Mowery. The two other victims – Alyssa Jeffries, 23, and Blake Lewis, 24 – survived, and one has been released from a hospital, Mowery said. They were shot at the Gallops gas station, 1215 W. North St., just before midnight Sunday.

Court records said security camera footage from the gas station shows Rodriguez having a brief encounter with one of the victims, then approaching all three victims from behind. At that point, Rodriguez is seen drawing his pistol and pointing and firing at each one, court records said.

As officers secured the scene just after the shooting, Rodriguez's sister, Anna Rodriguez, called Kendallville police to say her brother had come to her home earlier that evening to borrow her gray 2018 Dodge Journey to “drive to the gas station to buy some food.”

He returned later “irate, crazy and insane” and told Anna he'd shot three people. She could see he was armed with a pistol, and police retrieved 9 mm shell casings at the scene, court documents said.

Rodriguez took the keys to her red 2010 Kia Forte parked at her parents' home less than a block away. The Kendallville detectives who watched the security footage were familiar with Rodriguez and were able to identify him as the shooter, as did Anna Rodriguez, court records said.

Waters said Rodriguez had had “minor involvements” with local police but there was no clear motive for the shootings. Police believe the shootings were random.

“When we have the opportunity to talk with Mr. Rodriguez, we would have to speak with him to understand his motive,” Waters said.

The chief indicated that Rodriguez had lived in Kendallville for awhile. Detectives have spoken with local people, Waters said, but because it's an ongoing investigation, he was not at liberty to speak about any information that has come to light.

Waters, who was a detective with the Kendallville Police Department for 18 years before he became chief over a year ago, said he can't recall any shooting of this nature in recent history.

Lead detectives Angela Handshoe and Doug Davis spent 48 hours working on the case and were in communication with Ohio officials. A trooper saw the red Kia Forte and remembered it was linked to a homicide case in Indiana, Waters said.

“We have received so much assistance from other agencies,” Waters said, including the Noble County Sheriff's Department, the Avilla, Ligonier, Albion and Rome City police departments as well as the Indiana State Police and the U.S. Marshals.

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