Given two opportunities to speak, Cordell Hughes said nothing.
But family and friends of the woman he killed – his mother, Carmen Hughes – had a lot to say Monday in Allen Superior Court.
She was loved and loving, they said. The former postal worker liked to laugh and got along well with colleagues, they told a judge.
“Our lives have been deeply broken,” Corelli Williams said during a sentencing hearing that lasted about 30 minutes. “He's robbed so many people of a loving person. My sister didn't deserve to die the way that she did.”
Police were called Feb. 22 to Carmen Hughes' Lakeside Drive apartment after co-workers called police, concerned she had missed work. Inside, officers found her sitting in a chair – both jugular veins were cut and her carotid artery was slashed.
A separate wound punctured her lung, according to court documents, and a relative said Carmen Hughes was stabbed 22 times.
“This was a horrific crime,” Judge David Zent said before handing down a 55-year prison sentence. “The photographs show what a brutal event this was.”
Cordell Hughes, 41, met police Feb. 22 at the apartment, where he told them he last spoke to his mother two days earlier. A former football coach and community activist who railed against gun violence and gang activity in Fort Wayne, Hughes later changed his story and said he was at the home Feb. 18 and 19.
Investigators said Hughes tried to use his mother's debit card Feb 25 to withdraw cash but couldn't because he didn't know her PIN, a probable cause affidavit alleged.
Prosecutors charged him with murder, and he pleaded guilty in December as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors that called for 55 years behind bars. Murder is punishable in Indiana by up to 65 years in prison.
Defense attorney Michelle Kraus said Cordell Hughes struggled with alcohol and admitted guilt to spare family members a trial that would have exposed grisly details of the crime. Hughes has changed since the slaying and has a minor criminal record that includes only misdemeanor convictions, said Kraus, who pushed for a more lenient sentence.
“He is not the worst of the worst offenders,” Kraus said.
Zent twice asked whether Hughes wanted to speak. He refused both times.
Joe Kuras said he worked “for many years” with Carmen Hughes, whom he described as “the most particular person I know.”
“Carmen was the type of person that had every 'I' dotted and every 'T' crossed,” he said. “She is going to be missed. Carmen did not deserve to leave the world this way.”
Anthony Eley was angry at Cordell Hughes, his cousin. Eley drew an objection from Hughes' attorney when he looked at the man shackled and wearing an orange jumpsuit, telling Hughes, “I ain't gonna lie – I wish I could have one round with you. One round.”
“It's sad that we loved and lost a good person,” Eley said.