Man wants re-tried for Fort Wayne teen’s abduction, killing

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) A member of the group that murdered 17-year-old Cheri Sue Hartman in 2002 wants a new trial.

Chris Hovis, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 70 years for his role in the case that led to Fort Wayne’s first Amber Alert, filed a motion in Allen Superior Court for post-conviction relief. In a hearing Friday, Hovis’s defense attorney requested that the guilty plea be vacated and a new trial scheduled.

Hovis’s representation claims he was arrested without probable cause and then misled by the state in the sworn probable cause affidavit.

The 17-year-old Hartman was abducted from her home Aug. 19, 2002. A group of five beat Hartman, took her to a remote field in northern Allen County, beat her again, shot her and then left. The group returned to the scene and poured gasoline on her while one of the men urinated on her and then set her on fire.

At the time, someone reported seeing Hartman being beaten and thrown into a car. Fort Wayne’s first Amber Alert was issued hours later, which lead to the arrests of her kidnappers when a truck driver spotted Kelly’s car on Interstate 69 and alerted police.

According to court documents, Hartman allegedly made a derogatory comment in front of the group that made them mad, and flirted with Hovis.

Ronrico Hatch, who admitted to shooting Hartman, was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Brett Marks pleaded guilty to charges of robbery, criminal gang activity and carrying a hand gun without a license, and was sentenced to 35 years. Rheann Kelly was found guilty by a jury in 2003 and sentenced to 69 years. Christine Johnston was sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to robbery and criminal gang activity.

Hovis is in the 13th year of his sentence, housed in Wabash Valley Correctional Facility in Sullivan County. His projected release date is July 2048.

Judge Fran Gull took the request under advisement. She will make a ruling August 11.