Teenage suspect identified in murder of LaGrange father

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Police have identified a suspect wanted for murdering a LaGrange father of two who was shot and killed when giving two strangers a ride over the weekend.

According to LaGrange police, 24-year-old James Jake Ponder was with a friend on Troup Street to purchase a firearm when two strangers asked him for a ride. During the ride, police say the suspects attempted to rob Ponder and shot him. They also say they believe the firearm purchase was a set up for Ponder to be robbed.

After an investigation, police identified one of the suspects as 17-year-old LaGrange resident Travis McFarland. Warrants have been released for McFarland's arrest for murder, aggravated assault, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.

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"He was trying to do a favor and lost his life. That's just tragic. He was somebody's son, somebody's father and he didn't deserve this," said Alisha Green, a LaGrange resident who was one of Ponder's tattoo clients.

Sergeant Nelson told FOX 5's Portia Bruner a friend who was riding with Ponder Saturday night did not get a good look at the men who shot Ponder.

Police have not released the friend's name for safety reasons, but insist he has been cooperative with police since he rushed Ponder to the hospital Saturday night.

Ponder had a 2-year-old daughter, a 7-month-old son and a wife named Layla. She was too distraught to talk on camera, but did describe her husband as an "amazing father and the first and only love of my life of her life."

"My heart aches at the thought of burying the love of my life, the father of my two kids, my best friend, and my first love. He was my safe place no matter what we went through. I never imagined my life without him," Layla said in a statement to FOX 5 News.

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