JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A man charged with shooting and killing his ex-girlfriend and severely injuring her sister in 2017 on Thursday was found guilty of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder.
The verdict came hours after Chad Absher, 37, took the stand in his own defense, saying he didn’t shoot either of the women.
Absher was on trial for murder in the death of Christina “Ashlee” Rucker, 30. He’s was also accused of attempted first-degree murder in the shooting of her 28-year-old sister Lisa Rucker at a condo on San Juan Avenue.
Absher was also charged with possession of a firearm by a felon, and after the jury left the courtroom to deliberate his fate Thursday afternoon, he changed his plea to guilty for that charge only.
During his testimony Thursday, Absher described on the stand how he met Ashlee and Lisa Rucker after first meeting Ashlee Rucker’s young son while he was with his niece one day. He eventually formed a relationship with Ashlee and the two moved in together with her son, Absher said. He described their relationship as rocky.
When the defense asked him to recount what happened on Oct. 31, 2017, the night of the double shooting, Absher said he was lying in Ashlee Rucker’s bed when Lyle Scheideman started hitting him. Absher testified that he didn’t know why he was being beaten up.
Absher denied fighting back against Scheideman, who was dating Lisa Rucker at the time of the shooting. He said he started walking around gathering his things in the apartment to leave.
Absher said Scheideman left, then Ashlee Rucker grabbed Absher’s rifle and pointed it at him while he was standing with Lisa behind him.
He said when Ashlee fired, she missed him and shot Lisa.
Absher, who admitted he had been drinking that night and had taken sleeping medication, said he grabbed for the gun because he was afraid that Ashlee would shoot him because he had been “messing around with Lisa.” His defense attorney had him get up and show the jury his version of what happened that night.
He described that when he and Ashlee struggled for the gun, a second shot “went off,” but he said his hand never touched the trigger.
He said through tears that he left after that and took the rifle with him “because I was a coward” and he was scared.
Lisa Rucker took the stand briefly after Absher on Wednesday to rebut his testimony. She said she never had a romantic or physical relationship with Absher and that it was Absher who shot her. When the prosecutor asked if it was her sister who shot her, Lisa Rucker replied: “Absolutely not.”
The judge denied a defense motion for direct acquittal, saying the jury heard multiple versions of what happened that night and it was now up to the jurors to determine the credibility of the witnesses.
Following closing arguments, the jury was given the case and began deliberations just before 3:30 p.m. They returned with the verdict after about 90 minutes.
Absher is scheduled to return to court in November. He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
Differing versions of events
Absher’s testimony Thursday contradicted what Scheideman testified on the stand Wednesday about what happened the night of the double shooting.
Scheideman testified that he walked in to find Absher on top of Ashlee with his hands around her neck and that he rushed Absher into a closet for putting his hands on Ashlee. Lisa told Scheideman that Absher had a gun and that he needed to leave.
Scheideman said he then went outside but could see some of what was going on in the apartment from the parking lot. He testified that Lisa went back upstairs after Scheideman told her to go check on her sister.
He could see the top of a woman’s body but didn’t see her holding a rifle. When the woman moved over, Scheideman said he remembered hearing a scream, then two gunshots.
He said he ducked behind bushes and watched Absher leave while tucking a rifle under his jacket.
“I hear the children losing their minds,” Scheideman said. “Right when I walk in I see Ashlee at the front of Lisa’s bedroom, walk over to her, and I see her face was blown away. Then I looked to my right and I see Lisa, she’s gurgling up blood. The kids were on the couch screaming, and I was trying to calm them down at the same time.”
The defense brought up to the court Scheideman’s felony convictions, the fact that he too was drinking with Absher that night, and that in a deposition in 2018 he told the court he didn’t remember if Absher was on top of Ashlee Rucker, but during Wednesday’s testimony he said he did.
The state in redirect said Scheideman’s arrest happened after this shooting and wouldn’t impact what happened, and that Scheideman told police the night of the incident that Absher was choking Ashlee Rucker.
The state called an associate medical examiner to the stand who testified that Ashlee was shot in the back of the head from a distance. Dr. Peter Gillespie said the barrel of the gun was at least 3 feet away in this homicide.
Before the medical examiner took the stand, the jury heard from multiple detectives and crime lab analysts with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
A Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office sergeant said before he went inside the apartment, he met with Scheideman.
Scheideman told the sergeant it was Absher who shot the two women and police put out a be-on-the-lookout (BOLO) for Absher.
When the sergeant went inside the apartment, he said he saw two small children, then saw Lisa on the ground.
“I asked [Lisa] who shot you? She said ‘Chad Absher.’ I remember her saying it twice,” the sergeant said.
Then the state called a captain with Jacksonville Fire Rescue paramedics who said Lisa told them the same thing while on the way to the hospital.
“She spoke and said, ‘I can’t believe he shot me. That (expletive) Chad Absher shot me…and he killed my sister.’”
The defense cross-examined the sergeant by asking who gave Absher’s name. In that case, it was both Lisa and Scheideman.
The jury also heard details from the SWAT call out where JSO sent in a robot to get a visual of Absher inside a house. He was hiding behind a door.
The jury heard he did have his rifle but put it down and was arrested.