John Francis Jude Suppah, 36, was sentenced on Oct. 13 to 49 years in prison for the 2015 murder of Preston Stafford, 30. In September, a jury convicted Suppah of murder in the second degree, drive-by shooting, unlawful possession of a firearm in the second degree, possession of a stolen vehicle, and two counts of tampering with a witness. Deputy Prosecutor John Neeb represented the state at trial.
“My heart breaks visualizing my son lying on the cold pavement struggling to survive,” said the victim’s father in a written statement to the court. “All of his children will never personally know about their father; only through the memories we share.”
On Dec. 19, 2015 at about 1:16 a.m., Tacoma Police were dispatched to the area of East Morton Street and East T Street in response to a drive-by shooting. Officers found the victim, Preston Stafford, lying on his back surrounded by four or five people. He had been shot in the chest.
Stafford had been waiting on the corner for a ride from his friend, Nadine Lezard. He had been messaging Lezard on Facebook to get a ride. Suppah, who was with Lezard, was responding to those messages from Lezard’s phone. Lezard later told police that Stafford owed Suppah $50 and was a very jealous person.
A vehicle pulled up, and Stafford approached the vehicle, believing it was Lezard picking him up. The last messages exchanged were from Lezard, stating “outside in the running car,” and Stafford’s response, “stay there.” Suppah was driving the car, and his two co-defendants, Nadine Jolie Lezard, 41, and Thomas Jun Watts, 40, were riding with him.
When Stafford opened the passenger door, the driver, Suppah, pointed a gun at him and fired once, hitting Stafford in the chest. Stafford stumbled backward, and the car fled at a high rate of speed.
Stafford was alive when police arrived and told them that he had heard someone in the vehicle shout something about “owing me money.” He was taken to Tacoma General Hospital, where he died as a result of his injuries.
Suppah’s co-defendants, Lezard, and Watts, pleaded guilty to lesser charges.