Jury convicts man of killing woman, kids, suggests life term

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — A jury convicted a man Thursday of killing a woman and her three children last year in their northeastern Indiana home and recommended he serve life in prison without parole.

The Allen County jury found Cohen Hancz-Barron of Fort Wayne guilty of four counts of murder following a seven-day trial in the June 2021 deaths of his girlfriend and her three children.

Hancz-Barron, 22, showed no emotion and stared at Allen County Superior Court Judge Fran Gull as she read the verdicts Thursday morning, The Journal Gazette reported. Deliberations began Wednesday without the jury reaching a verdict.

Jurors resumed deliberations Thursday before reaching a verdict.

Jurors deliberated further before returning to the courtroom with a recommendation that Hancz-Barron serve a sentence of life in prison without parole, as prosecutors requested.

Once the sentence recommendation was announced, relatives of the four victims waited for prosecutors Tom Chaille and Tesa Helge and lead homicide detective Brian Martin on the second floor of the Allen County Courthouse, bursting into applause once they appeared.

Hancz-Barron chose not to return to the courtroom for the sentence recommendation.

Gull set sentencing for Aug. 5.

Hancz-Barron was accused of using a knife to kill his girlfriend, Sarah Nicole Zent, 26; her sons, Carter Matthew Zent, 5; Ashton Duwayne Zent, 3; and daughter, Aubree Christine Zent, 2, in their Fort Wayne home. All four died of stab wounds, and the mother also had been strangled, the Allen County coroner said.

Hancz-Barron was arrested hours later at an apartment complex in Lafayette more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) from where the bodies were found.

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