WARNING: The following story contains graphic details

Trial continues for Cohen Hancz-Barron, charged with the deaths of Sarah Zent and her three young children

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Muffled sobs were heard in court Thursday as autopsy photos of a young mother and her three young children were displayed on a large screen for the jury seated in general seating, outside the jury box.

On the other side of the courtroom rope, 20 family members saw the stab wounds, head wounds of the three children slammed against something so hard they were likely knocked unconscious and evidence of a ligature around the neck of the mother – manually strangled, suffocated as her face was pressed against something hard and tied with a ligature around her neck.

The young children looked like sleeping angels, their stab wounds out of place in faces so innocent.

“We have no words,” one family member said after the day’s testimony. None of them are ready to speak with the media, but explained that each day they are wearing polo shirts to honor one of the slain. Thursday, they wore green for Ashton, 3, who Dr. Scott Wagner, forensic pathologist, said was 38 inches tall and weighed 36 pounds. Tomorrow they will wear pink for 2-year-old Aubree, who was 35 inches tall and 26 pounds.

Carter, 5, the one who had defense wounds on his arm and hand because he fought his assailant, was 3 feet, 9.5 inches tall, and weighed 48 pounds. His color is navy blue. Sarah Zent, 5 feet tall, will be honored with yellow. Sunflowers were her favorite flower.

Cohen Hancz-Barron, 22, is standing trial this week and next for the brutal deaths of Sarah Zent, 26, and her children found together on a large bed in the back bedroom of their home at 2904 Gay St. the morning of June 2, 2021.  Hancz-Barron had been staying at the home about a month before the family was killed. Her sister, Joselyn Zent, testified Wednesday that Sarah wanted him to leave.

When Zent’s family eventually found the four victims, Sarah was kneeling at the bed, almost as if she were praying with her arms over her head. The children were arrayed on the disheveled bed, all of them covered with a pink bedspread.

Wagner said there was a pattern to the stabbings. Each one received the most stab wounds on the right side of the neck and was also attacked with a knife in the right flank, every wound aimed at the liver.

While Wagner and the Allen County Coroner ruled their deaths homicides from multiple stab wounds, their carotid arteries and jugular veins sliced so that they bled to death, the three children also received head trauma as if they’d been bashed against something.

The knife used to kill them was two to three inches long and shaped like a leaf, one side dull and the other, sharp.

After the morning session ended, the family worried the court might declare a mistrial after the defense attorneys, Anthony Churchward and William Lebrato, said they were concerned that one witness’s testimony had brought up Hancz-Barron’s felony arrest warrant from 2019. In court documents, there is a motion to suppress prior criminal history, meaning it can’t be mentioned in court proceedings.

Hancz Barron

But it was determined that the trial could go on, Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull announced. The arrest warrant was brought up again during the testimony of Fort Wayne Gang Unit officer Geoff Norton, responsible for transporting Hancz-Barron from Lafayette where he was apprehended a few hours after he fled Fort Wayne.

“Will I do my time for this case before the time I had on my other case?” he asked Norton, referring to a probation violation out of Starke County.

Troopers also testified Thursday that the Indiana State Police North Squad surrounded the fugitive with their SWAT team after the black Ford 150 he took without permission was located at an apartment in Lafayette. Fort Wayne police were able to track Hancz Barron’s phone and social media activity through cyber technology and coordinated with the Indiana State Police, according to court testimony.

Before the gruesome autopsy photos were shown, the jury heard testimony from Hancz Barron’s mother, Denise Hancz-Barron, and his step-mother, Sarah Barron. His father died in 2015.

After he took the black Ford F-150 that belonged to neighbor Richard Bevelle around 6 a.m., he first went to his mother’s house with a story he’d been shot and needed money and duct tape, as he held his side. Denise, who was close to her son and spoke frequently with him, told the court she didn’t see any blood.

Hancz Barron told her that he loved her and to tell his son, who was around 2, that he loved him.

“Man it’s bad,” he told his mother. “Something bad has happened,” Denise told the court.

Sarah Barron got a hysterical phone call from Hancz-Barron at 3:21 a.m. He told her repeatedly to “change her name, move, that he loved her and that she would never talk to him when she found out what he did,” Sarah Barron reported. She said he was sobbing and asked for money for gas and food.

Sarah Barron caught up with an Allen County Sheriff’s deputy at 4:15 a.m. at the Lassus Handy Dandy on Dupont Road. She told the deputy about the phone call. He tried to ping Hancz-Barron’s phone and contacted authorities in Ohio where Hancz-Barron inferred he had been shot.

Surveillance footage from Sarah Barron’s home shows him arriving at her home later that morning wearing dark jeans, and a black hoodie. He carved the message “I (heart) U” on her door before he left for Lafayette.

Friday, Deputy Prosecutor Tesa Helge, who led most of the questioning Thursday, said crime scene detectives will testify among other witnesses. Since there were two weeks scheduled for this trial, it’s unlikely proceedings will end Friday and will resume Tuesday.

If there is a conviction, another trial will be held with the same jurors to determine if Hancz Barron should get life without parole.