JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Heart-wrenching words from a 5-year-old boy moments after he saw his mother shot in the head: “Mommy, please don't die.”
According to police, the man who fired the shot that left the boy's mother clinging to life also shot and killed the woman's sister inside their Hyde Park condo early Tuesday.
Lisa Rucker is now expected to make a full recovery, according to family members, who said her survival is nothing short of a miracle. Rucker's friend, Lyle Scheideman, said he held the young mother in what he thought would be her last moments of life, as her sister, Ashlee Rucker, lay dead by her side.
Scheideman said Lisa's son begged her to live, and that she loves him more than anything. He called her a fighter.
“I was actually crying just talking with her and praying with her, and she actually wiped my tears away,” Scheideman said after visiting Lisa in the hospital. “She wrote down on a piece of paper not to cry. That everything was going to be all right. She’s just an amazing friend.”
Lisa is improving, though she remains in the Intensive Care Unit at UF Health, family members said. She is now able to keep her eyes open and write, they said.
Scheideman said he is visiting her as often as he can in the hospital. He was able to visit and communicate with her twice Thursday.
He said he is going to be there for her every step of the way.
Accused shooter caught
Before she was rushed to UF Health the day she was shot, Lisa Rucker told police that the man who pulled the trigger was Ashlee's ex-boyfriend, Chad Absher, court records show.
According to Absher's arrest warrant, Lisa and Ashlee's sons, who were both in the condo at the time, also identified Absher as the shooter. The boys, ages 5 and 8, were not hurt, family said.
Absher, who goes by “Tee,” was the subject of a two-day manhunt by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office that ended Wednesday afternoon when he surrendered to police after a brief SWAT standoff at a home on 118th Street near Blanding Boulevard.
He was booked into the Duval County jail around 2:30 a.m. Thursday on charges of murder, attempted murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Absher, 32, was ordered held without bond, and his arraignment date was set for Nov. 27. His father, who attended a first-appearance hearing Thursday, said his son is innocent.
“Right now, there are two families that have been torn apart,” William Absher said. “God's just got to be with us. That’s all I can say at this point in time.”
Absher was arrested in 2006 for stalking a previous ex-girlfriend. He pleaded guilty and served three years in prison. That woman and another woman with the same last name both obtained domestic violence injunctions against him.
Kevin Labarron, the father of Lisa's son, said it was a relief knowing that Absher had been taken into custody.
"He shouldn't have been on the streets for any reason," Labarron said. "There's been multiple calls on him -- domestic violence, domestic battery, convicted felon with a firearm -- and nothing's ever happened."
Labarron said his son saw the deadly shooting.
"It's taken a toll, because he's not the same kid he was a couple of days ago," he said.
Witness recounts tragedy
Scheideman told News4Jax that he was at the sisters' condo the night Chad Absher showed up. Witness names are redacted from the arrest warrant for their protection, but the story Scheideman shared is consistent with the report provided by police.
According to that report, Scheideman told police he stopped Chad Absher from choking Ashlee during an argument Tuesday inside the second-floor condo where she later died.
“At the time when he showed up, I pretty much just wanted to keep things calm and cool, being that the kids were around,” Scheideman said. “I never liked when he was around. It was always an uncomfortable situation, because I can be very protective and definitely knowing that he had put his hands on Ashlee before, I did not want them around him period -- at all.”
Scheideman told police that Chad Absher and Ashlee had been arguing most of the day because Absher refused to return the keys to Ashlee's car, which he had been driving.
Scheideman said that argument appeared to have cooled, but he later found Absher choking Ashlee and yelled at him to stop. Absher did, but then took off his shirt, pushed Lisa out of the way and charged at Scheideman, according to court records.
Scheideman told News4Jax that he had no choice but to punch Absher to the ground. He said that he tried to get everyone out of the condo before Absher could get up.
Scheideman told police that he decided to leave because Absher had a gun. He said Lisa followed him when he ran out, but he told her to go back inside and check on her sister.
Scheideman said he went to the ground floor and found a spot where he could still keep an eye on what was going on inside the condo, and that's when he heard two gunshots a few seconds apart.
He told police he saw Absher walking out of the condo, zipping up his jacket to hide what Scheideman described as a rifle or shotgun.
Scheideman said he hid until Absher went by, then ran upstairs and found the two women both shot in the head.
Family mourns Ashlee
Ashlee's family said she was recently in an abusive relationship with Absher, and they begged her to end it.
After they broke up, family said, Ashlee and her son moved into Lisa's condo, but Absher knew where they were living.
Ashlee’s father is arranging a memorial service for her on Sunday, which would have been Ashlee's 31st birthday, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Lion’s Club at 545 Eastport Road. Anyone is welcome, and those who come are asked to bring a covered dish.
“It’s a very sad moment in my life ,and I know her family’s, as well,” Scheideman said. “I want her to be remembered by her love and the fact that she was just a vibrant, amazing person, not by the fact that she was taken by a coward.”
The viewing will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 9 and funeral services will begin at 10 a.m. on Nov. 10. Services will be held at George Hewell and Sons Funeral Home at 4747 Main Street.