Judge sentences man who strangled, buried girlfriend

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) An Allen County judge sentenced Franklin Dent Thursday morning to 87.5 years for murdering his girlfriend and then burying her body in the basement of a Fort Wayne home in February 2015.

Bob Gevers, Dent’s attorney, told the court his client maintains his innocence and the sentence will be appealed.

A jury convicted Dent in May of strangling Jessica Fecht, moving her body to obstruct an investigation and being a habitual offender. Fecht’s body was found in the basement of a home in the 1500 block of Sherman Boulevard on February 5, 2015. She had been buried in a hole that had been covered with dirt and debris.

Franklin John Dent

Police said Fecht’s family lost contact with her in January 2015 and her father filed a missing persons report January 20. Officers checked her last known address and told the landlord that she had been reported missing. Police broke the case when the landlord later noticed changes to the foundation of the home after he went there to get it ready for new tenants. Police went back to the home and found her body.

Jessica’s mother, Cathey Fecht, spoke at the sentencing hearing. She asked the court to hold the person responsible fully accountable for her daughter’s death so no other family has to endure what her family has gone through. Cathey mentioned Jessica’s daughter recently had a child who will never know their grandmother. Jessica had three children. Cathey also said Jessica was murdered just five days after moving from Wisconsin to Indiana to be with Dent.

Jessica’s aunt, Helen Fecht, spoke as well. She started out demanding Franklin Dent be a man and look her in the eye as she addressed him.

She continued saying “Jessica’s memory is the one thing you can’t take away from us.” Helen also said when addressing the court, “We hope you lock him away for the rest of his life so he can’t do this to another person.”

Deputy prosecutor Christine Neilson said “Mr. Dent is the worst of the worst.”

Dent didn’t make a statement when given the opportunity.

Dent’s previous criminal record dates back to 1996 and consists of 5 misdemeanor convictions and 6 felony convictions (2 burglary, 2 escape, theft and marijuana possession).

Dent had initially faced trial in March 2016, but a mistrial was declared before any witnesses were called 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.

Stephanie Dent was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice.