Indiana News

Docs: Fort Wayne man escaped home detention in Lafayette before killing girlfriend, 3 children

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WISH) — A Fort Wayne man escaped home detention in Lafayette before killing three children and his girlfriend Wednesday, authorities say.

Cohen Hancz-Barron, 21, was arrested Wednesday in Lafayette and on Thursday was charged with four counts of murder; he remained in the Allen County Jail.

The four deaths mark the fourth mass killing in Indiana so far this year.

A man and woman yelled, “He killed them, they’re dead,” as Fort Wayne police officers arrived around 10:40 a.m. Wednesday at a home on Gay Street. When officers entered, they found a woman, identified Thursday as 26-year-old Sarah Zent, dead and kneeling by a bed in a downstairs bedroom. Three children were lying facedown on the same bed. Zent’s age also was not given by authorities. All four victims appeared to have been stabbed in the neck and were pronounced dead at the scene, court documents say.

The coroner identified the children as 5-year-old Carter Matthew Zent, 3-year-old Ashton Duwayne Zent, and 2-year-old Aubree Christine Zent. The coroner did not say how they were related, but local media says Sarah Zent was the children’s mother, the Associated Press reported Thursday night.

A witness told police that Zent’s boyfriend, Hancz-Barron, “did this.” The witness also said he had seen Hancz-Barron leaving the home earlier Wednesday morning. The witness told police that he had given Zent the keys to his black Ford F-150 truck and told her she could use it any time she needed it. The witness told police he had never given Hancz-Barron permission to use the truck and that he saw Hancz-Barron get into the truck and leave the house on Gay Street just before 6 a.m. Wednesday, court documents say.

Surveillance video from Whitney Young Early Childhood Center, about a block away from the home, showed that the upstairs lights were on in the home from 4:22 a.m. Wednesday to sometime between 5:22 a.m. and 5:42 a.m., when the lights went off. The video shows the F-150 drive away from the home between 5:54 a.m. and 6:15 a.m. No one else was seen on video entering or exiting the home until the time police arrived, court documents say.

Hancz-Barron had also called his mother, who told police she had not heard from him for two years. He called her around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday to wish her a happy birthday, she said, then he showed up at her Fort Wayne home around 6:15 a.m. “talking and acting crazy and telling her he had been shot in the stomach.” He asked her for duct tape and money, which she said scared her. Then she told him to leave her house, court documents say.

About 15 minutes later, Hancz-Barron pulled up to his stepmother’s home in Fort Wayne, parked the F-150 behind the house and walked up to the front door, court documents say.

Detectives next found evidence that Hancz-Barron was at an apartment complex in the 500 block of Gordon Court in Lafayette. Officers served a warrant there and detained Hancz-Barron, who had with him “a knife with what appeared to have a red stain on the blade.” The F-150 was found outside, court documents say.

According to police, Hancz-Barron called his stepmother while he was in Lafayette. He asked her to send him money via the Cash App, said he needed to call a lawyer, and said he was “going to have to tell the police who did this” and that “they haven’t connected everything yet.” When she asked about the stolen truck, he told her he had permission to use it.

His stepmother also asked if Hancz-Barron was talking about the quadruple homicide and he told her, “I was there.”

He then told her about a lawyer in Chicago, but that he would charge “$100,000 for something like this.”

Hancz-Barron also told her “to look at Facebook to see what he had done,” and she told him, “I don’t want to,” court documents say.

Hancz-Barron told his stepmother he knew who killed the victims and “he would take the time” since “he had time coming anyway.”

After telling his stepmother there wasn’t a gun involved, he said he got shot but pulled the bullet out of himself and said he “must have been followed” to the house. He told her he saw Zent injured but did not see the kids. Hancz-Barron’s stepmother called 911 to report that she was speaking with him, and the call was recorded by the 911 center, court documents say.

On the ride from Lafayette to Fort Wayne, Hancz-Barron asked a detective if he would “do my time for this case before the time I had on my other case,” court documents say. Police said Hancz-Barron was likely referring to a pending probation violation out of Starke County in northwest Indiana.

Tippecanoe County Community Corrections said Thursday that Hancz-Barron was on electronic monitoring and living at Home with Hope, a detox center for alcoholism and other drug addictions in Lafayette, from March until he escaped April 19. Starke County issued a warrant for him on April 23.

According to Starke County Community Corrections, Hancz-Barron was serving time on an August 2019 armed robbery and, upon sentencing, was immediately transferred from Starke County’s program to Tippecanoe County Community Corrections.

The court in February changed Hancz-Barron’s armed robbery sentence. He was allowed to serve the rest of his six years in the Indiana Department of Correction on electronically monitored home detention through Tippecanoe County Community Corrections on the condition that he enter and successfully complete residential treatment through Home with Hope.

When officers and Hancz-Barron arrived back at the Fort Wayne Police Department, an officer asked him “how his day started off” and said he knew Hancz-Barron “had a rough day, and pointed out several cuts and scratches he had on his neck, jaw, and wrist.” He did not have any gunshot wounds, according to police. Hancz-Barron told the officer the scratches on his neck came “from the police standing on his neck,” but the officer said they appeared to be fingernail scratches, court documents say.

Hancz-Barron told the officer that talking to him “would not be good for him or help him,” so he needed to talk to a lawyer.

Inside Hancz-Barron’s billfold, the officer saw a Visa card with the name of Sarah Zent. The card and a set of car keys were put into evidence, court documents say.

Hancz-Barron is next due in court on Tuesday, according to online court records.

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