INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis police used cell phone records, social media messages and witnesses to track down a man they say killed two other young men in 2021.
Eric Colvin Jr., 18, and Justice Wills, 22, were shot to death in June 2021 as they sat in a car in the parking lot of an apartment complex in the 9800 block of Woodsmall Drive on the far east side.
Marion County prosecutors say Lamar Ball met the men that night and killed them.
"This was a case that really came down to technology," Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Homicide Detective Larry Craciunoiu told WRTV.
Craciunoiu worked the crime scene on the night Colvin and Wills died.
Over the next several months, according to a probable cause affidavit, Craciunoiu obtained search warrants for cell phone records and social media messages that led him to witnesses who helped him identify the suspect.
"In the real world though, one of the biggest things that we need is a witness in the community or someone in the community that knows something and is willing to help us help them, keep their community safe," Craciunoiu said.
Ten minutes before the killings, prosecutors say someone sent Colvin the Woodsmall Drive address in a Snapchat message and said "I'm out front."
Craciunoiu traced the phone number associated with that Snapchat account to a witness who had been assigned the number after the homicides.
After seeking another search warrant, Craciunoiu learned that the person who had the phone number at the time of the murders was Ball.
Craciunoiu, according to the probable cause affidavit, later spoke to a witness who said Ball had confessed to the killings.
"Yeah," the witness told Craciunoiu according to the affidavit, "he told me about killing those two kids."
Ball, according to the affidavit, told the witness he threw the murder weapon into a body of water. Police found bullet casings at the scene and in the car, but have not found the gun.
Craciunoiu interviewed Ball in January 2022, but he said he couldn't remember anything about the night of the killings. He claimed to have had six or seven different cell phone numbers throughout 2021. The interview ended when Ball requested an attorney. He was not arrested at that time, records show.
Over the next several months, Craciunoiu found two more witnesses who helped linked Ball to phone numbers and addresses associated with the killings.
In October 2022, Craciunoiu finally gathered enough evidence to obtain an arrest warrant.
The U.S. Marshals Service tracked Ball to Los Angeles, Ca. where they arrested him on May 23 — nearly two years after Colvin and Wills were killed.
Police say Ball tried to run away and two LAPD officers were injured during the arrest.
Kendra Tate, Colvin's mother, said she appreciates the months of work Craciunoiu devoted to solving the case and is grateful for the witnesses who helped.
"I'm thankful to them, whoever they are, that someone did decide to speak up and say something," Tate said. "I think a lot more of that needs to happen in our community so we can get some of these other cases solved and bring some of the other moms closure and justice as well."
Ball, 33, has been charged with two counts of murder and is being held in the Marion County Jail, records show. His trial is set to begin on Aug. 28.
Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @vicryc.