Fatal shooting in Tacoma appears to be over $50

Preston Stafford, seen here at a Seahawks game in Seattle, died Saturday after being shot in Tacoma. He was 30.
Preston Stafford, seen here at a Seahawks game in Seattle, died Saturday after being shot in Tacoma. He was 30. Benita Moore

Editor's note: This story was corrected on Sept. 18, 2017

A Tacoma man was fatally shot because he owed a man $50 and asked the man’s girlfriend for a ride early Saturday, according to court documents.

The Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the victim as Preston Stafford, 30.

Stafford’s stepmother, Benita Moore, described him Tuesday as a “teddy bear.”

“He always had a smile for everybody,” Moore said. “He had the biggest heart.”

Stafford grew up in the Tacoma area, attended Bethel High School and was the father of three children. He loved the outdoors, Moore said.

“He should never have been in the city,” she said.

Stafford messaged Nadine Lezard about 1:15 a.m. Saturday and asked if she could pick him up, court records show.

Lezard was in the car with her boyfriend, John Suppah, who saw the message and took the phone to tell Stafford that Lezard was on her way.

Stafford waited near East T and East Morton streets until he saw a Volkswagen Jetta pull up, records show. He opened a passenger door but didn't recognize anyone in the car, according to charging papers.

He then saw the driver pull out a handgun and open fire, the records state.

The car sped away. Witnesses called 911.

Stafford was taken to Tacoma General Hospital, where he underwent surgery.

Detectives were able to speak with him before he died about 6:30 a.m., records show.

Stafford told them the someone yelled “something about owing me money” before he fired, according to charging papers.

Police found the messages Stafford exchanged with Lezard, 40, and interviewed her and Suppah, 34.

“She said Stafford owed Suppah fifty dollars and that Suppah was also a very jealous person,” records show.

Lezard told detectives that Suppah shot Stafford.

Both Suppah and Lezard were arrested Monday.

On Tuesday, prosecutors charged Lezard with second-degree murder and Suppah with first-degree murder, drive-by shooting and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm. They pleaded not guilty and each was ordered jailed in lieu of $1 million bail.

Suppah has 15 felony convictions in the last decade, including possession of a stolen car, attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle, unlawful possession of a controlled substance, possession of stolen property and identity theft, court records show.

Staff writer Adam Lynn contributed to this report.

Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653