WARNING: The following story contains graphic content
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – He sent his mother a text wishing her a happy birthday.
Then he showed up at her house, crying and holding his abdomen. He’d been shot, he said. He needed money and duct tape. He told her to make sure his 2-year-old son knew he loved him.
“Man, it’s bad. Something bad has happened,” Cohen Hancz-Barron said to his mother on the morning of June 2.
That’s according to testimony from his mother, Denise Hancz-Barron, who took the stand in an Allen Superior Courtroom on Thursday morning during the third day of her son’s trial in connection to the killings of a woman he lived with and her three children.
Cohen Hancz-Barron is accused of stabbing 26-year-old Sarah Zent and her children – ages 5, 3 and 2 – to death in a Gay Street home last June. He faces life in prison without parole if convicted.
After the killings, he fled the home in a neighbor’s pickup truck – which he took without permission, according to court documents and testimony.
He showed up at his mother’s door about 15 minutes later. She told jurors during her testimony she had heard stories like the one he was spinning that morning before. Even though he held his abdomen, Denise Hancz-Barron didn’t see any blood suggesting her son had really been shot.
She handed him two 20-dollar bills to get whatever he needed.
She learned about the Zent killings later on when she flipped on the news, she said.
Cohen Hancz-Barron also called his stepmother in the early morning hours of June 2.
Sarah Barron said she received a hysterical phone call from her stepson around 3:21 a.m. He told her repeatedly to change her name, that she needed to move and that he loved her. He also said she’d never talk to him again when she found out what he did.
Three guys, he said, had been shot in a bar and his friend was killed.
He was sobbing, Sarah Barron told the jury, and asked for gas and food.
Later, she found a message carved in her front door.
“I heart U,” it read.
Surveillance video showed Cohen Hancz-Barron had put it there that morning, Sarah Barron said in court testimony.
Hancz-Barron eventually fled to Lafayette, holing up in an apartment close to the Purdue University campus.
An Indiana State Police manhunt ensued, and a SWAT unit zeroed in on him at the apartment after someone spotted Hancz-Barron smoking outside. The truck he took was also in the parking lot.
Hancz-Barron was on a couch when a member of the SWAT unit threw a flash-bang grenade into the apartment, according to a trooper who testified Thursday. He ran to the kitchen where he held a knife to his chest while officers entered and drew nearer.
They ordered him to drop the knife several times, which he finally did. Hancz-Barron complied with commands and dropped to his knees before one officer bound him with zip ties while three or four others had their guns drawn on him, the trooper told jurors.
At the end of the morning session, Hancz-Barron’s defense attorneys raised concerns to Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull that a felony warrant for their client’s arrest in another county was brought up by a previous witness.
Typically, bringing up pending charges in a separate criminal case is not allowed during trials.
It’s unclear whether the concern of Hancz-Cohen’s attorneys will change any of the proceedings or affect the trial.
Jurors were expected to hear more testimony Thursday, including experts talking about the autopsies of Sarah Zent and her children – 5-year-old Carter, 3-year-old Ashton and 2-year-old Aubree.
When family members discovered Zent, she was kneeling at the end of her bed with stab wounds to her neck. Her children were in the bed, killed in a similar fashion, according to court documents.