DA: Charges stacking up, more details relased in September 2023 Sugar House murder

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill announced nine charges today, Jan. 16, against one suspect believed to be involved in a Sugar House neighborhood murder in September 2023.

Felix Diego-Ruffino, 19, has been charged in the shooting death of J’kye Lovell Ray Watkins, 18, at the 900 block of E. 2100 South on Sept. 10, 2023. Diego-Ruffino was arrested on Jan. 4 and has been charged with the following offenses:

  • One count of first-degree felony murder

  • Six counts of first-degree felony discharge of a firearm with serious bodily injury

  • One count of second-degree felony discharge of a firearm with bodily injury

  • One count of second-degree felony obstruction of justice.

According to the charging documents, Watkins was attending an end-of-summer party when witnesses said he got into a fight with another man and received a cut over his eye. While a friend attempted to calm him down, “[Watkins] wanted to go back and fight.”

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Watkins reportedly walked into a nearby parking lot and was followed by a gray Nissan car. According to witnesses, Diego-Ruffino jumped out of the car brandishing a gun, along with an unnamed front-seat passenger. Diego-Ruffino allegedly said, “You started this,” to Watkins. Watkins responded by pulling his own gun and allegedly firing shots toward the Nissan. Diego-Ruffino and his unnamed passenger returned fire. One witness said it appeared that the two men “emptied their clips.”

First responders later found Watkins on the ground with “several gunshot wounds to his head, legs, and abdomen,” according to charging documents. He died later at a local hospital. Utah State Medical Examiner’s Office autopsy reports, referenced in the charging documents, stated Watkins was shot eight separate times: in the head, the right shoulder, the right side of the neck, the right side of the abdomen, the right thigh and a graze wound on the left elbow.

Witness reports say as many as five people may have been in the Nissan, most if not all wearing ski masks.

Salt Lake Police detectives found 14 WIN Liuger 9mm shell casings and four 5.7 x 28 FNB 19 shell casings at the scene. Four 9mm Hornady live rounds and a damaged Sig Sauer 9mm magazine were found next to Watkins’ body.

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Charging documents show a search warrant on Diego-Ruffino’s residence turned up numerous guns, magazines, and gun boxes matching the shells and weapons found at the scene. Surveillance video showed Nissan witnesses mentioned, but that car was not found at Diego-Ruffino’s home. Instead, detectives found a brand new vehicle, and they traced the Nissan back to a local car dealership.

“Our deepest condolences go out to the loved ones of J’kye Watkins. Gun violence in Salt Lake County not only affects the victim and their loved ones, but it puts the entire community at risk as well,” Gill said. “We appreciate the hard work of the Salt Lake City Police Department that spent months gathering the necessary evidence that led to these charges. All persons accused of wrongdoing are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.”

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