The Journal Gazette
Thursday, February 28, 2019 1:00 am

Man charged with killing mother

Suspect worked with youths; woman stabbed 20 times

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

A coach. A mentor. A community activist.

And now, an accused killer.

Cordell Devon Hughes, 40, was charged Wednesday with the murder of his mother, Carmen Hughes, 60, who worked for the U.S. Post Office on Hessen Cassel Road. Before that, she worked for Fort Wayne State Development Center.

Sometime between 10:51 a.m. Feb. 20 and 12:20 p.m. Friday, Cordell Hughes went to his mother's apartment and killed her, court documents said.

Cordell Hughes met police at her apartment Friday afternoon after his mother's co-workers called police, concerned she had missed work. She had not reported to work Feb. 21 or Friday and had called in sick Feb. 20, leaving a message on an automated service.

Police found Carmen Hughes sitting on a chair in her bedroom. An autopsy Saturday revealed she died from sharp force trauma to the neck and one wound that punctured her left lung. She had more than 20 wounds, several of them photographed, measuring 3 centimeters in length. Both jugular veins were severed as was the left carotid artery, Dr. Scott Wagner with the Allen County coroner's office said in court documents.

Her liver had started to decompose, which placed her death more than 48 hours before the gruesome discovery likely on Feb. 20, the day she called in sick, court records said.

A note confirming she called in absent Feb. 20 was found by police along with evidence that Cordell Hughes was a beneficiary for several of his mother's life and retirement policies, court documents said.

Cordell Hughes said he had last spoken to his mother Feb. 20 at 10:51 a.m. and started getting no response from her about 5 p.m. Police could find no other phone calls or contact with her from anyone, court documents said.

During questioning, Cordell Hughes told police he was in her apartment about two weeks before her death and then changed his story to say he was there about 7 p.m. Feb. 18.

He revised his story Tuesday to say he was there Feb. 19 at 7 p.m., court records said.

He told officers that when he arrived at her apartment Friday, he was surprised her apartment door was unlocked and that his mother was “very paranoid” about locking her doors and used an additional block when she was inside.

Officers found no forced entry into the apartment, court documents said.

At that point, Cordell Hughes had a cast on his arm and told officers he had surgery on his hand Feb. 21 and that his mother was supposed to be at the hospital with him but did not show up. On Tuesday, he recanted that testimony, court documents said.

Additionally, the apartment manager said carpets had been steam cleaned Feb. 18 due to a water leak and possible mold and that Carmen Hughes was at the apartment when the cleaning took place, court records said.

On Saturday, Fort Wayne police Detective Roy Sutphin warned Cordell Hughes not to be surprised at the condition of the apartment. Crime scene investigators had a section of a wall removed as evidence, he told Hughes. Several patches of carpet with blood stains had also been removed.

That same day, Cordell Hughes told Sutphin that he had cut his hand in his mother's apartment and hoped the blood would not be his.

On Tuesday, Cordell Hughes told Sutphin that the cut he received was like a paper cut and showed the wound location. There was no evidence of a healed wound on his right wrist where he pointed, court documents said.

Also on Tuesday, Cordell Hughes asked Detective Liz Anglin whether police knew where his mother's debit card was.

Shortly after Hughes asked Anglin that question, police were notified that Hughes had tried to use the debit card at the Time Corners PNC Bank branch Monday. His withdrawal was denied because he didn't have the PIN code, court documents said.

Cordell Hughes called Anglin three hours after asking about his mother's debit card and said that he'd found it in a bag inside her apartment.

The day Hughes tried to withdraw money from his mother's debit card, he told Detective Brian Martin that surgery to his left hand was for a tendon issue and provided a medical release and records to verify this. Records indicated a lacerated tendon, court records said.

When asked how he injured his hand, Hughes said he had pushed down on trash in a trash bin Feb. 20, but didn't know what in the trash bin caused the injury that went completely through his hand. Hughes said he dressed and cleaned the wound at his home on Weisser Park Avenue before going to the emergency room.

Complete medical records obtained by police said Hughes sustained a puncture-type wound through the top of the hand. The wound went through his hand and out of his palm. There was also a fracture to the bone, court records said.

Photos and X-rays of the wound did not square with the trash bin story. The entry wound was approximately 3 centimeters in length, with the exit wound slightly shorter, court documents said.

A search warrant at Cordell Hughes' residence Tuesday at the corner of Weisser Park and Senate avenues did not turn up any evidence of blood or wound treatment.

On Tuesday, Hughes told Anglin that his surgery was for carpel tunnel syndrome, a story different from his original assertion that his wound was a paper cut or an injury from pushing down trash in a trash bin.

Hughes is currently at Allen County Jail, being held without bond.


Hughes coached football for Metro Youth Sports and was the co-founder of Community Unity, which sponsored a picnic and kickball classic at Lawton Park every summer, among other events targeting the city's youth.

He also spoke out against the gun and gang violence ripping through Fort Wayne's southeast side. He was one of several speakers at a service in early January for 16-year-old Marlon Davis, who was shot to death New Year's Eve.

The news has some in disbelief.

“I don't believe the Cordell Hughes that I knew committed this crime. I don't believe it,” said Roderick Parker, a community activist who said he leaned on Cordell Hughes when Parker was going through personal issues and worked with him on community events.

Vanessa Bright, who has known Cordell Hughes since her son attended Paul Harding High School with him, said she was in shock and disbelief.

“I know him as a great father and mentor for young men in the community organizations that he is a part of (and has) volunteered. I don't know the details about the case, so I can't really speak on his guilt or innocence,” Bright said.

“What I do know is that this is very sad and tragic. I'm going to pray for him and his family and leave this situation in God's hands.”

Sign up for our crime and courts newsletter

Sent daily when events warrant