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Gunman convicted in drive-by slaying over lost cellphone

After two hours of deliberation Wednesday, an Allen Superior Court jury convicted a 38-year-old Fort Wayne man of murdering a 21-year-old man last February.

As the jurors filed in, none looked toward A.C. James Jr., who stood stoically next to his attorney, Randy Fisher. Besides the murder charge, the jury also convicted him of aggravated battery and criminal recklessness.

Allen County prosecutors charged James, of the 1700 block of Illinois Street, after Kyree Ellis was shot to death inside the back of a small SUV. The shooting was reported to be related to a spat about a cellphone.

Testimony during the two-day trial included those inside the car with Ellis that night – his cousins Andrew Witt and Michael Lewis.

Lewis testified he found a cellphone at a gas station at Paulding Road and Hanna Street. He took the phone with him when he went to hang out with family and friends at Ellis’ grandmother’s home.

While there, Lewis and Witt testified, the phone kept ringing and Lewis arranged a meeting to return the phone but was insisting on receiving a finder’s fee.

When the group met with the man, later identified as James, at the gas station, Lewis and James could not agree on a fee. James walked away and Lewis left, driving a car with Witt and Ellis inside.

According to testimony, James gave chase in a pickup truck, firing one shot at Lewis’ car as it approached Paulding and Lafayette Street.

A single bullet penetrated the car, striking Ellis in the back. Ellis died shortly after his cousin drove him to St. Joseph Hospital.

Testimony on Wednesday morning included forensics regarding the gun and photographs of the car. The case was sent to the jury about 3 p.m. Wednesday.

James faces at least 45 years in prison when he is sentenced next month.

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