A man who has been behind bars for 15 years in a heinous Fort Wayne murder now says a police detective threatened to have him killed in prison if he didn't plead guilty to the crime.
It was part of testimony in an Allen County courtroom Friday, as 36-year old Christopher Hovis is seeking to have his plea thrown out, giving him a shot at a new trial.
Hovis is one of five defendants connected to the abduction and murder of 17-year old Cheri Sue Hartman in August of 2002.
But he's hoping to have his 70-year sentence tossed out.
Hartman was abducted by Hovis and four others as she got off work 15 years ago.
She was taken to a field off Dupont Road, where she was stripped naked, beaten, and then shot through the mouth.
Her body was later burned.
The case prompted an AMBER alert and the arrest of the suspects along I-69 in Dekalb County.
Hovis now claims two days before he pleaded guilty to several charges including felony murder, detective Garry Hamilton grabbed him and pulled him out of his seat, then told him if he didn't admit guilt he would arrange to have Hovis killed in prison.
"I would find that ludicrous. I've known Chief Hamilton for over 20 years, he's an outstanding officer, the defendant obviously has a bias that he's sitting in prison and is looking for reasons to try to get out," said Mike McAlexander, the chief deputy prosecuting attorney in Allen County.
Hamilton later became chief of police for FWPD.
"We miss Cheri very much and it's awful that we have to go through this again 15 years later. I'm glad that she's still remembered though," said Aimee Osborne, Cheri Hartman’s sister.
Detective Hamilton vehemently denies the accusation that he roughed up or threatened Hovis in any way.
Hovis' lawyer also claimed in the post-conviction relief hearing that police did not have probable cause to stop the car Hovis and the others were riding in, prior to them being charged in Hartman's slaying.
Judge Fran Gull has taken the evidence presented under advisement, and will make a ruling later this year on whether the guilty plea stands or gets tossed, prompting a new trial.