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Murder trial held for teenager accused of killing St. Joseph County jail officer in drive-by shooting

A front photo of a Black woman Rhema Harris
Photo provided, St. Joseph County Police Department
Rhema Harris was killed in a shooting in June 2022. She was an army veteran and St. Joseph County corrections officer

A teenager whoallegedly shot and killed a St. Joseph County corrections officer was in court this week for his murder trial.

On Monday and Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Sanford heard arguments from prosecutors and from lawyers representing 19-year-old Braxton Bird, who is accused of killing 28-year-old Rhema Harris in a drive-by shooting.

Bird was 17 in June of 2022 when officials say he rounded up some friends and family members and shot at a house on Milburn Avenue in Mishawaka with a rifle.

Officials say Bird was shooting at a girl he was feuding with, but he instead killed Harris, who was a family friend of the girl’s mother and was at the house at the time. Officials have said Bird broke into the house of one of the girl's relatives and he blamed her family for being caught. Bird was apparently out on probation from the Juvenile Justice Center and was wearing an ankle monitor at the time of the shooting.

Bird's younger cousin Braelyn Rios is also charged with attempted murder for participating in the shooting.

Sanford is expected to give a verdict within 30 days. Sanford, as a judge, is deciding the case because Bird waived his right to a jury trial.

Marek Mazurek has been with WVPE since April 2023, though he's been in Michiana for most of his life. He has a particular interest in public safety reporting. When he's not on the radio, Marek enjoys getting way too into Notre Dame football and reading about medieval English history.