FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The Fort Wayne man who killed a woman and her three children in their southeast-side home more than a year ago will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Cohen B. Hancz-Barron, 22, was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole during a hearing inside Allen Superior Court on Friday afternoon.
In May, a jury found Hancz-Barron guilty on four counts of murder for the June 2, 2021, deaths of 26-year-old Sarah Zent and her children, Carter Mathew Zent, 5; Ashton Duwayne Zent, 3; and Aubree Christine Zent, 2, in a home at 2904 Gay St.
Each died of multiple stab wounds.
Police and medics were called around 10:45 a.m. to the home a block south of East Pontiac Street on a problem unknown, according to the police activity log. Inside the home, police said they found a “gruesome” scene – all three children dead face down on a bed, and their mother kneeling beside it, also dead.
Hancz-Barron was quickly identified as a suspect, and police tracked him to a Lafayette apartment complex, where he was arrested that afternoon.
Allen County prosecutors sought life without parole for Hancz-Barron. After a four day trial, a jury found him guilty in the killings, and of the penalty enhancement of life without parole.
Friday, Superior Court Judge Fran Gull made it official. Gull who presided over the 2-week trial said she had little compare it to because it was so horrific.
“I’ve been on the bench for a while,” said Gull who was a deputy prosecutor in Allen County prior to becoming a judge. “I had a death penalty case in the mid-90s. I can’t recall (another) circumstance that this court has witnessed that has been as horrific as this crime.”
The brutality affected not only the family she commended for sitting through the terrible details, but it was difficult to endure for the public defender, prosecutors and the court staff, she said.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Gull said before several of the family got up to speak, even though Hancz Barron chose not to attend his own sentencing. With them at the lectern was Patrice Coleman of Victim Assistance, quietly assisting them as she did during the trial.
“I hope you rot in hell,” Joselyn Zent, Sarah Zent’s sister, said. “You murdered half my family. I know he don’t care and never will. He took them for no reason.”
Travis Karl, father to Carter and Ashton, told the judge he had a hard time sleeping now. “I have horrible dreams.” When his daughters ask where the boys are, Karl said it’s difficult to explain what happened to them.
A father’s promise stolen, a mother’s choice to forgive
“As a father, you have a promise to keep your children safe and he took that away from me,” Karl said. “All he had to do was leave the house.” His hope was that Hancz-Barron will meet a monster in prison, “a monster waiting for him when he gets there.”
But it was Sarah Zent’s mother, Melanie Fields, who surprised some in court because she came to forgive.
“You do not win. After today, I will never speak your name. You are dead to me. “
Even if he did remove the physical bond she had with her daughter and grandchildren, there was something he couldn’t take.
“You can’t have them in my eternal life,” Fields said. “I still talk to them They will live on through me, but I have to do one thing. I have to forgive you. Before you and God, I forgive you. After today, you will not consume me any longer. I will turn the page that had you in it.”
After the sentencing, a butterfly release was held to honor the victims.