Judge calls mistrial for man accused of strangling, burying woman

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) The trial of a man accused of killing a Wisconsin woman whose body was found more than a year ago, buried in a hole in the basement of a Sherman Boulevard home, was called off Tuesday before a single witness took the stand.

Franklin John Dent
Franklin John Dent

Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull called a mistrial early Tuesday in the state’s case against Franklin J. Dent, who stands accused of strangling 34-year-old Jessica Ann Fecht of Portage, Wisconsin. Her body was found buried in the basement of a home in the 1500 block of Sherman Boulevard last February.

Dent’s attorney motioned for a mistrial early Tuesday, the first day of the trial, after Dent’s sister Stephanie Dent threatened to kill another sister if she testified for the state. The threat happened in a courtroom hallway, in earshot of potential jurors, Gull said.

Mug shot of Stephanie Ann Dent provided by the Allen County Sheriff's Dept.
Mug shot of Stephanie Ann Dent provided by the Allen County Sheriff’s Dept.

Stephanie Dent has been arrested and charged with obstruction of justice. She is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday morning.

A new three-day trial was set for Aug. 9.

Fecht’s family lost contact with her in January 2015 and her father filed a missing persons report January 20.

Officers initially went to the Sherman Boulevard home, but didn’t find her. Then in February, the landlord went into the house to prepare it for new tenants and found “a significant change in the foundation” in the basement of the home, police told NewsChannel 15 last year.

There, police found Fecht’s body, buried in a hole in the basement and covered with dirt and debris, according to a probable cause report.

Jessica Fecht (Facebook)
Jessica Fecht (Facebook)

Dent, the owner of a record that includes burglary, theft, escape and drug convictions, was charged with murder and altering the scene of a death.

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