There was grief on both sides of the courtroom Friday as 23-year-old Zachary D. Reinders admitted to bludgeoning 78-year-old Diane Woods to death with a fireplace poker.
His mother choked back silent sobs as her son said the word “guilty” three times – to charges of murder, felony murder and robbery.
But before Allen Superior Court Magistrate Judge Samuel Keirns came into the courtroom, it was Woods’ family and friends wiping away tears and comforting one another, waiting to hear those same words.
While he waited for the hearing to start, Reinders sat next to his court-appointed attorney, handcuffed and shackled. He bent at the waist in his chair and sat with his face flat on the table in front of him, his hands cuffed in his lap.
Reinders, of the 5800 block of LeSteele Boulevard, pleaded guilty without a plea agreement with prosecutors, but by doing so, he spared himself the possibility of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
And he spared Woods’ family, and his own, the pain of a trial, of hearing how he left Woods’ body in her own blood-spattered home.
Woods, a widow and retired legal secretary, normally talked to family members on the telephone every day, and when she missed her afternoon phone call with her sister, they went to check on her.
Her son found her on Aug. 8, dead inside her mobile home at 5721 LeSteele Blvd., on the city’s north side.
Her death was ruled Allen County’s ninth homicide, caused by blunt-force trauma to the head.
There have been 14 homicides this year.
Woods’ wallet was found in a trash can at Reinders’ nearby home, and there was blood on a pair of his shoes.
Reinders and another man then took Woods’ bank card and went on a shopping spree, buying clothing and electronics. A television from Reinders’ home was in his trunk, a source told police.
He was arrested about two weeks after Woods’ death.
Reinders will be sentenced in December and faces more than 45 years in prison. Because of changes to Indiana law that took effect in July, he will have to serve at least 75 percent of his sentence before he is released.
Prior to July 1, inmates were given credit for good behavior in the Indiana Department of Correction that effectively cut their sentences in half.
After the hearing, Reinders’ mother and another woman left the room, still wiping tears from their eyes.