One truck driver accused of killing another on I-68 Lane change cited as start of dispute

April 01, 1993|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

HAGERSTOWN -- The quarrel started with a lane change, escalated over the citizens radio band and ended with one truck driver shooting another to death on the shoulder of the interstate.

Washington County District Judge Darrow Glaser denied bail yesterday for Elijah Ruffin Jr., 57, of Columbus, Ohio. He is charged with first-degree murder, assault with intent to murder, use of a handgun in the commission of a felony, illegal possession of a handgun and reckless endangerment. A preliminary hearing is set for April 28.

Mr. Ruffin, who is being held in the Washington County Detention Center, is accused of fatally shooting Terrance L. Mills, 43, of Fairmont, W.Va., after they and a third trucker stopped on the shoulder of Interstate 68, west of the Interstate 70 interchange near Hancock, on Tuesday.

According to court documents, Mr. Ruffin claimed Mr. Mills nearly caused an accident by cutting him off during a lane change. The two began arguing and, along with the third trucker, pulled their rigs off to the shoulder about 8:10 p.m.

When Mr. Mills approached the passenger side of Mr. Ruffin's cab, Mr. Ruffin opened the door and fired one shot, striking Mr. Mills in the neck, police say.

Mr. Ruffin told police he intended only to scare Mr. Mills, who drove for Quality Suppliers of Keyser, W.Va.

The third driver, Richard Bryan, 33, who also worked for Quality Suppliers, ran back to his truck to radio for help.

Mr. Ruffin fired two shots and struck the vehicle, according to police reports. Mr. Bryan, also of Fairmont, W.Va., was not injured.

Mr. Ruffin then called for help on his CB radio, unloaded his gun and waited in his truck for police to arrive, investigators said.

Mr. Mills was pronounced dead at the scene.

Mr. Ruffin sat quietly and politely answered Judge Glaser's questions during his bond hearing yesterday. He told the judge he was married, had a grown daughter and had been a truck driver all his life.

For the past 16 months, Mr. Ruffin has worked for Roadway International.

At the AC&T Co. Inc. truck stop off Interstate 81, just north of I-70 and west of Hagerstown, several truckers said yesterday that they had heard of the killing while en route to Maryland.

"It's kind of scary," said Frank Grachen, a 52-year-old trucker from Niangua, Mo. "You can say anything you want to on the radio, but you don't pull over. That's a dumb thing to do."

Brad Foster, a 28-year-old Arkansas driver, said he heard about the incident while driving south on I-81 from Allentown, Pa.

"It makes you realize that something like that could happen to you," he said. "News of something like that spreads real fast. Some truckers get out there and think they're tough. . . . They're the ones that give us a bad name."

Mr. Foster said truckers often argue over sports, politics, "your mother, your wife," to keep themselves awake during long hauls. However, he said that it's usually in jest and that the arguing truckers will often pull over at truck stops to have coffee together.

Dave Stout, a 48-year-old Ohio driver, said, "There's a lot of arguing out there. It's getting worse and worse. Traffic's getting heavier."

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