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July 1, 2014 • Headlines

Pictured at left, Ben Westerman standing with Scott Stenger on the steam engine at RCFG.
See more photos in this Thursday's The Versailles Republican.


A three-vehicle crash resulted in the death of a North Vernon man and injured two others. The force of the impact was
so severe the Buick split in two. The crash remains under investigation. Read details in today's Osgood Journal.

Ben Westerman stands as Scott Stenger steers the steam engine with friends Kayla, Courtney and Elizabeth a
the 2014 Southeastern Indiana F.A.R.M. Club Show at the Ripley County Fairgrounds over the weekend.

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Teen gets 37 years for role in murder

Mary Mattingly

One of the three people involved in the murder of Nancy Hershman of Milan on Dec. 30, 2012 has entered a plea agreement and is facing 37 years in prison. Daniel Hodge, 17, changed his not guilty murder plea Friday to guilty of Burglary of a Dwelling Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury, a Class A felony. The state dismissed the other two charges of murder and conspiracy to commit burglary. Hodge is facing 37 years in prison, according to the plea agreement. Formal sentencing won’t be until July 31 at 9:30 a.m.

Daniel Hodge

Daniel Hodge was escorted from the courthouse by Deputy Corky Houseworth Friday to the jail.

Earlier this year, Sean Nichols, age 16 at the time of the crime, was sentenced to 50 years for his role in the Hershman murder. He and Hodge’s cases were both waived to adult court. Allison Moore, 23, who is believed to have pulled the trigger on Hershman is awaiting trial for murder, pending a decision by the Indiana Court of Appeals. Hodge’s and Moore’s trials were scheduled for July, but the appeal is still in progress for Moore. All three lived in Colerain Township, Ohio at the time; however, it was Hodge who had the Ripley County connections and led them to the area.

Judge Carl Taul presided over the Circuit Court hearing Friday with John Watson appointed to represent Hodge and Ric Hertel prosecuting for the state. About eight friends and family members of Hershman’s were in the courtroom. There were two young people there who walked in with Hodge and his attorney. Hodge, who is about 5 feet tall, wore the orange inmate coveralls and was handcuffed. His demeanor to the judge and state was respectful, answering “Yes sir” and “No sir.”

Dawn Evans, Hershman’s daughter, was present as she has been for all of the pre-trials, trials and sentencing of the three suspects. She said afterwards there was no closure for her since Moore’s trial is up in the air. She commented about the plea agreement with Hodge, “It bothers me he has no remorse.”

Hodge will have an opportunity to speak at the sentencing and so will the victim’s family. Hodge, who was a day from turning 16 when the crime occurred, was in a Muncie youth detention center before the case was waived to adult court. He had tried to escape three times and also threatened the officers there. He has been in the Ripley County jail since.

Plea agreement hearing
On Friday, Judge Taul confirmed with Hodge that he understood his rights, that by pleading guilty he gave up the right to an appeal, and would agree to cooperate with the prosecution of co-defendant Moore, among a few other provisions.
A Class A felony is punishable of 20 to 50 years. Afterward, Ric Hertel commented that the murder of Hershman wasn’t a random act, but “senseless”.

Hodge stated he and the others did not know Hershman, but had come to the county to basically steal from another resident who Hodge knew had marijuana and cash. Upon questioning, Hodge said he had been to the Hershman property before, as he had played basketball twice with a girl who lived there at the time. Hodge confirmed he was living with an aunt and uncle in Ohio, next door to Allison Moore, and knew Sean and Ben Nichols. Hodge said they decided to go to Ryan Jackson’s home in Ripley County with the intent to rob him. Hodge had attended South Ripley school before he moved away.

Moore drove, and the teens met at a bike trail and smoked marijuana before heading to Ripley County. Sean Nichols had showed him his new gun at one point. “You were able to give directions to get to (Ryan) Jackson’s house” Hertel asked Hodge, and he replied, “Yes sir.” Wearing a ski mask, he and Nichols, who had the gun out, kicked the door down and went upstairs to Jackson’s bedroom. They took about $200 from Jackson and two ounces of pot, which Nichols and Hodge later split. The cash went to Moore, who said she needed it to buy a bus ticket to Georgia.

They left and parked near a Milan laundromat and looked in a nearby pickup for money to steal. Having found none, they went next door to the Hershman house with the intent to steal items to sell, Hodge said. He kicked in the door. He and Nichols were picking up a television on a table when he heard a woman scream. Hershman had apparently come downstairs. “I could see her, not her face, but her figure,” Hodge said. It was determined he was about 10 feet away, but Moore was “close enough to touch her.” He heard her say “Stop!” then heard a gunshot and saw the gunfire flash. She fell, and the three ran back to the car, without taking anything from the home.

When asked what Moore said once she got in the car and started driving, Hodge replied she said,“It did not feel as bad as I thought to shoot somebody.” She did not seem upset, but rather happy, he told the court. She dropped him and the two Nichols boys at his home, and kept the gun in the car. Hodge said it was not his intent to shoot anyone.

Moore case
Meanwhile, the state is waiting on a decision from the Indiana Court of Appeals regarding the Moore case. Taul ordered in April that the statements Moore made to Indiana State Police investigators were not to be used as evidence in court because detectives did not properly read Moore her Miranda rights or “scrupulously honor” her right to remain silent. Hertel said the appeals court decided on June 3 to hear the case. “Our focus should be on who pulled the trigger,” Hertel said, “The probable cause sets forth who we believed did that.”

Hertel also said, “Law enforcement, the family and the prosecutor’s office believe this is the right decision. Hodge agrees to testify against the alleged shooter, Allison Moore.  He was 15 at the time of the crime and is receiving a significant sentence, a major sentence in fact.”  

After sentencing July 31, he will be sent to the Reception Diagnostic Center to determine where he will be incarcerated.

Pick up this week's edition of the Osgood Journal for the stories below and more local news. Subscribe by clicking the subscribe link or call 812-689-6364.

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