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Zent Family Murders: Day two of testimony

Published: May. 12, 2022 at 12:33 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - Day two of testimony in the trial for 21-year-old Cohen Hancz Barron began Thursday morning. Hancz Barron is charged with four counts of murder. He’s accused of killing Sarah Nicole Zent, 26; her sons, Carter Matthew Zent, 5, and Ashton Duwayne Zent, 3; and daughter, Aubree Christine Zent, 2 at a home on Gay Street on June 2, 2022.

Hancz Barron’s mother, Denise Hancz Barron, was the first to take the stand when court resumed Thursday. She says she received a text from her son at midnight on the day of the murders. It was her birthday. She says he texted, “Happy birthday, mom. I love you.”

Prosecutors believe it was later in those early morning hours that Hancz-Barron stabbed and killed Sarah Zent and three of her children. They were all found in the same bedroom.

Denise Hancz Barron says her son showed up at her home at around 6:15 that morning. “I opened, he came in,” she testified. “He was very upset, crying was almost behaving as if someone was chasing after him.”

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She says he told her he had been shot in the stomach and needed money and duct tape. She testified she did not see any injuries to his body. “I really didn’t know what to believe. I was confused,” she said on the stand. “He kept saying, ‘Mom, it’s bad. Something bad has happened.’”

She says he was rushing to leave, but before he left her home, he told her he loved her and wanted her to tell his young son he loved him as well. She testified she called police once she saw news reports about the crime scene on Gay Street. She says she provided the authorities with text messages sent by her son. Those text messages were presented to the jury but were not read in their entirety aloud in court.

Sarah Barron, Hancz Barron’s stepmother testified next. She says his father died in 2013, but she kept in touch with Cohen, and he would come to her when he needed help.

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She was working during the overnight hours on June 2nd and says she received a phone call from her stepson at 3:21 in the morning. “He kept telling me to change my name, that I needed to move, that he loved me, and I’d never talk to him again when I knew what he did,” she told the jurors.

She says he told her on the phone he was in Ohio where he claimed to have shot three people and his friend had been killed. She says she later learned that story was not true. She says he was “hysterically sobbing” and hung up after an eight-ten-minute phone call.

She went to find a police officer to report what she’d been told. She says she approached an Allen County Patrol Officer sitting in his car in the parking lot of a gas station near I-69 and Dupont and told him the story Hancz Barron told her on the phone.

She says the officer took a report and told her to call 911 if her stepson showed up at her home. She says the officer also instructed her that if he called, she should use another phone at the same time to call 911 and hold it up so that dispatchers could hear the conversation.

Sarah Barron says she did just that later in the afternoon when her phone rang. It was her stepson again. At this point news of what had happened to Sarah Zent and her children was being broadcast and reported on local newscasts and websites. “He told me to watch the news,” she testified. She says the call dropped when police arrived at an apartment in Lafayette and took her stepson into custody.

The prosecution also presented surveillance video Barron says was recorded at her home on the morning in question. She says it shows Hancz Barron walking up to her door at around 6:31. She says she also later discovered an etching on her door that said I love you with a heart.

Testimony continues. The trial is scheduled to take two weeks. Courtroom officials say there’s no telling whether the prosecution and defense will need that entire time to present their evidence.

The prosecution is seeking life without parole if Hancz Barron is convicted.

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