A teenage mother abducted from an Atlantic City apartment in March was killed because she recognized the woman who allegedly led an armed robbery in a Back Maryland home, criminal complaints against six people claim.
Three Atlantic City residents were arrested early Tuesday and charged with kidnapping Nadirah Ruffin, 19, from her cousin’s residence on the 800 block of North Maryland Avenue on March 26. Ruffin’s body was found in Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River on April 19. She had been shot once in her head, which was wrapped in cloth and duct taped down to her neck, the complaint states.
Shamerria Smith, 24; Aziz Sanders, 18; and Deshawn Hicks, 19, all of Atlantic City, face federal charges of robbery, kidnapping resulting in the victim’s death, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. Even though New Jersey abolished capital punishment, the three could face the death penalty on the kidnapping charge.
“But the decision is made by the Attorney General’s Office in Washington,” said Matthew Reilly, a spokesman for state U.S. Attorney's Office.
Three others — Isiah, Henry and Ronnie Ruffin — also are charged in connection with hindering the investigation. The three men are related to each other but not to the victim.
No one has been charged with murder, and there has been no comment on who may have shot Ruffin.
Police were called to the residence of Monica Dunn at 11: 39 p.m. March 26. There, four women — including Dunn — had been duct-taped and robbed by what they described as a group armed with guns and wearing masks and dark, hooded sweatshirts. The affidavit says they told police the assailants pistol-whipped at least two of them, duct-taped their eyes and wrists, and searched the apartment as if they were familiar with the layout.
“Shamerria, why are you doing this to me?” Nadirah Ruffin was heard asking Smith, two of the victims told police. “You know me.”
Smith then allegedly said: “Now we got to take the (expletive)” and “now we have to kill the (expletive).”
During the approximately 30- to 40-minute home invasion, Ruffin’s cellphone was smashed and placed in a sink of water, the complaint states. Ruffin was punched and hit. Money and drugs were taken, including “woki” — a drug consisting of marijuana and embalming fluid. Another victim said 50 bags of marijuana were stolen from her purse. The charges do not state how much money was taken or the total amount of drugs.
The assailants then forced Ruffin from the home, where the complaint said she was staying.
Reports in March stated that there were four assailants, but Reilly said he could not comment on whether another person is being sought. The complaint describes the attackers as “a group.”
Police — bolstered by a community effort — led an exhaustive search for Ruffin. On April 19, a collegiate rowing team practicing on the Schuylkill found a woman’s body. The next day, the remains were positively identified as Ruffin’s.
“These arrests are a testament to the tireless efforts of law enforcement, specifically the agents from the local FBI field office who worked around the clock to bring Nadirah’s killers to justice,” said James Leonard Jr., who was Nadirah Ruffin’s attorney. “I know that the family is extremely grateful for everyone who played a part in this investigation and made this day possible.”
The complaint paints a motive steeped in revenge.
Smith’s cousin Isiah Ruffin, 20, of Atlantic City, was dating a woman identified only as T.W., the complaint states. The woman found Isiah was having an affair and believed it was with Nadirah. On March 23, she struck both Isiah and Nadirah.
Dunn then allegedly went to T.W.’s home and confronted her about the attack, saying that Isiah had groped her and made sexual advances. Dunn also told her child’s father, Donald Hawkins — known as “Goldie” — about the alleged impropriety.
Hawkins called Isiah Ruffin, setting up a meeting in the courtyard of the North Maryland complex where the abduction would occur. Hawkins eventually admitted to beating Isiah Ruffin and “stomping him repeatedly.”
Isiah Ruffin was hospitalized, and told several people — including his cousin, Smith — about the attack. Smith told police she cried when she saw her badly beaten cousin.
Smith then allegedly set up the home invasion in retaliation.
Once the attackers left with Nadirah Ruffin, Smith and Hicks turned on their cellphones and there were at least four calls between Smith and Isiah Ruffin, the complaint states. Smith and her cousin also talked with their uncle, Henry Ruffin, 40, of Williamstown, the records show.
Afterward, Smith told someone who later cooperated with police that she believed Nadirah would “snitch” and that when the teen was found, “she would no longer be talking,” the complaint states.
Smith’s father, Ronnie Ruffin, 42, of Lindenwold, is accused along with his brother, Henry Ruffin, of attacking Isiah to keep him from talking to authorities, the complaint states.
The investigation was a joint effort involving federal, state, county and local law-enforcement officers, including a group of 50 who served the arrest warrants. The agencies included the FBI, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, the Atlantic City Police Department and the city’s SWAT members and detectives.