FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — A woman and three young children found dead in a home in northeastern Indiana each died of multiple stab wounds, a coroner said Thursday.
The Allen County coroner also identified strangulation as a cause of Sarah Nicole Zent’s death in Fort Wayne.
The body of the 26-year-old Zent was found Wednesday morning along with two young boys and a girl: Carter Matthew Zent, 5; Ashton Duwayne Zent, 3; and Aubree Christine Zent, 2. The Allen County coroner did not say how they were related, but local media say the woman was the mother of the children.
She was found kneeling beside her bed, with the three children face down on the same bed, according to a probable cause affidavit filed Thursday in Allen Superior Court.
About 11 a.m. Wednesday, a man and woman worried about the family went to check on them. As officers approached the home, the couple yelled, “He killed them. They’re dead,” court records said.
The man accused of killing the four, Cohen Hancz-Barron, 21, was being held without bond following his arrest Wednesday afternoon at an apartment complex in Lafayette more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the scene of the killings. He was moved late Wednesday to the Allen County Jail in Fort Wayne.
Fort Wayne Police spokesman Sgt. Jeremy Webb said Hancz-Barron faces four preliminary murder counts, pending a formal charging decision by the Allen County Prosecutor’s office.
“Our detectives are still finishing up and putting the case together. That will be reviewed by the prosecutor’s office and they will file charges as they see fit,” he said Thursday morning.
Webb said Hancz-Barron had been wanted on an arrest warrant issued in April stemming from a probation violation in northwestern Indiana’s Starke County.
Webb said friends and family identified Hancz-Barron as a suspect in the killings, which police believe occurred between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. Wednesday. Police had asked the public for help finding Hancz-Barron, saying he was “armed and extremely dangerous” and possibly driving a stolen pickup truck.
Webb said Hancz-Barron knew the woman and the three children, but police have not released information on his relationship to the victims.
A representative from the victims’ family asked for privacy in a statement sent Wednesday to WANE-TV, describing it as “a very devastating time.”
“Please give us time to process the horrific events that have occurred today,” the statement said.
A warrant was issued for Hancz-Barron’s arrest in April after he walked away from a drug treatment center in Tippecanoe County, where he was serving the remainder of a sentence after pleading guilty in a 2019 robbery case, WPTA-TV reported.
In that case, a man told authorities Hancz-Barron pointed a gun at him in Starke County in August 2019 and demanded his wallet. The man said Hancz-Barron told him he needed money because he had a baby on the way, and he’d shoot him in the head and bury his body in a ditch if he didn’t hand over his wallet.
Hancz-Barron pleaded guilty in that case and was sentenced to six years of home detention last year, and given credit for having served 426 days in jail. His sentence was amended in February to allow him to serve his remaining time at Home with Hope, a residential drug treatment program.