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Family of woman charged with murder in killing of Lafayette pizza delivery driver kicked out of court

Jaelynn Billups is accused in the killing of Joshua Ungersma, 37, and her alleged accomplice, 19-year-old Alberto Vanmeter.

LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The murder trial for the Lafayette teenager accused of killing a pizza delivery driver started with some contentious moments on the first day when the family of the suspect was removed from the courtroom.

Jaelynn Billups is accused in the killing of Joshua Ungersma, 37, and her alleged accomplice, 19-year-old Alberto Vanmeter. The jury was selected Tuesday to hear the case against her.

But at a break Tuesday, the court was made aware that members of Billups' family were recording or livestreaming the jurors and prosecutors as they exited the courtroom. 

According to a court order obtained by 13News, Billups' family members reportedly made racial comments and other comments perceived to be a threat to a deputy prosecuting attorney. The court found that the family members were attempting to intimidate the jurors and deputy prosecutors. The family members were then ordered to be removed from the courthouse for the remainder of the trial, and their phones were seized to examine them.

Credit: WTHR/Lauren Kostiuk
A sign outside a Tippecanoe courtroom warns that "all cellphones and electronic communications or recording devices shall be turned."

A motion for a continuance was filed by Billups' attorney, but it was denied.

Billups is accused of taking part in the attempted robbery and the killing of Ungersma as he was making a pizza delivery Aug. 31, 2020, in the 1900 block of North 16th Street in Lafayette.

RELATED: 17-year-old charged with murder in killing of Lafayette pizza delivery driver

Prosecutors allege Vanmeter and Billups, who was 17 at the time of the alleged crime, planned to rob Ungersma. Court documents claim Ungersma had a permit to carry and pulled his revolver in self-defense, shooting and killing Vanmeter

A witness, Patrick Gibson, told 13News and police that he had heard gunshots and went outside. He said he saw Billups with Vanmeter, and Vanmeter had been shot. Ungersma told Gibson that Billups and Vanmeter had tried to rob him and to call police. Gibson said he then saw Billups walk up and shoot Ungersma. 

Another witness also said they saw Ungersma ask for someone to call police and then Billups shot him, according to court documents.

Credit: Jamie Wilkins
Pizza delivery driver Josh Ungersma and his infant son, Sebastian.

Officers said Billups was hovering over one of the victims when they arrived. When she was ordered to show her hands, they say she threw a 9mm handgun onto the sidewalk and was then detained. Court documents show Vanmeter was Billups' boyfriend.

Delivering pizzas was a second job for Ungersma. His primary job was as a meat cutter for Payless Supermarket, where he worked for more than a decade.

During the trial Wednesday, jurors heard from seven witnesses called by the prosecution. Those witnesses included a crime scene technician and two of the officers that responded the night of the shootings. In body camera video shown in court, you can hear Billups say, "They shot each other." Jurors also heard from four neighbors about what they say and heard that night.

RELATED: Lafayette man pleads guilty on all charges in attempted murder, kidnapping of 9-year-old girl

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