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Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Tina Rothgeb holds photos of her son, Paul Ward, and his family, left, and her boyfriend Ryan Turner. Rothgeb’s boyfriend, son and nephew have all been killed in just over a month.

‘It’s going to be so hard’: Guns take 3 from woman

Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Tina Rothgeb’s boyfriend, Ryan Turner, looked after her as she grieved the death of her son and nephew. Turner died of a gunshot wound on Jan. 11.

The night of Dec. 7, Tina Rothgeb stood behind police tape at the rain-soaked scene of a double shooting in south Fort Wayne. Her longtime boyfriend, Ryan Turner, was consoling her anguish with a tight hug.

Police had found Rothgeb’s 22-year-old son, Paul Ward III, shot dead in his car near Milton and Hanna streets. Also shot was Ward’s cousin, 22-year-old Jeremy Walker. He was taken to a hospital in critical condition and died two days later.

The deaths of her son and nephew devastated Rothgeb, but Turner, the man she wanted to marry, looked after her while she grieved.

“He stayed by my side the whole time,” she said.

But now Turner, her crutch, her best friend, is gone, too – the victim of a shooting Friday night.

Police said Turner, 45, walked into the Sunoco gas station at Hanna and Lewis streets, suffering from a gunshot wound, and asked a clerk to call for help. Shortly after 9 p.m., paramedics took him to a hospital where he died that night, authorities said.

In little over a month, the city’s violence has snatched three people from Rothgeb’s life. She was already missing her son and nephew “like crazy,” and now, after losing Turner, she is not sure how she will manage.

“It’s going to be so hard not to have him here to wake up with me,” she said as she sat at her dining room table Sunday morning. “He was my everything.”

Rothgeb is also afraid of what might happen next.

“I’m scared for my kids,” she said. “Every time they go outside, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, you guys, don’t go very far.’ ”

She has even given her sons, ages 17 and 26, instructions in case they hear gunshots. “Hit the floor, get to the nearest phone, call 911 and never pop your head back up.”

Investigators have found nothing to indicate that Turner’s death is related to the double homicide of Walker and Ward, said Officer Jason Anthony, a city police spokesman. No arrests have been made in either case, and motives have not been confirmed, he said.

Sgt. Carl Moore, head of the homicide unit, said detectives have persons of interest in the double shooting. In Turner’s case, police remain in the early stages of their investigation and are still trying to determine where he was shot, Anthony said.

Rothgeb, 42, said she was in her kitchen washing dishes Friday night when she saw Turner, for the last time, grabbing his coat to leave.

“I’ll be right back,” he told her. “I’m just going to go over and see some friends.”

She did not know where he was headed but was happy he was getting out of the house after spending so much time taking care of her. She said they planned to watch movies at home later.

Rothgeb said she cannot imagine who would kill Turner, a talkative guy who was not confrontational. “Everybody loved Ryan,” she said.

Since she was 15-years-old, Rothgeb had known Turner as a family friend. In 1994, he was convicted of aggravated battery and ordered to spend time in prison, records show.

After his release, he and Rothgeb reconnected at a bar. This Valentine’s Day would have been their eighth anniversary, she said.

Rothgeb, who is a nursing assistant, said Turner had asthma that left him out of breath after walking just a short distance. Having failed to qualify for disability payments, he mowed lawns to make money. She said he had not recently been involved in criminal activity.

Nicknamed “Country,” Turner loved camping and listening to Toby Keith, Rothgeb said. The two of them would go to the Kentucky Derby every year.

“We loved to go and watch the races,” she said in a phone interview Saturday night. “He loved working on his truck, fixing it up, getting ready for the next trip.”

After Rothgeb’s son died, Turner read her Bible passages, making her think about her loss in religious terms.

“It’s not that God was ready for (my son), but his time got rushed,” she said. “Now God’s going to accept him.”

Rothgeb said her son and nephew, separated in birth by four months, loved to joke around and play video games. Neither had significant criminal records, according to the Indiana courts website.

Both men left behind children, she said.

Turner was especially close with Ward’s 2-year-old daughter.

“She just lost her daddy,” Rothgeb said of her granddaughter. “Now you got to tell her that Grandpa’s gone, too.”

aingersoll@jg.net

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