A shocking development in a decade-old case: A shooting, once thought to be accidental, is now being called murder. The woman being held responsible may have forced a child to do her bidding, according to the county prosecutor.
Judith Hawkey was in court Tuesday in Defiance County, on charges she orchestrated her husband's killing back in 2003.
The Defiance County Prosecuting Attorney Morris Murray told WTOL 11 these new charges came about because they uncovered new evidence. Although specific details about the nature of the new evidence were not released, prosecutors say it led to Hawkey's arrest.
The victim in this case is Hawkey's former husband, Robert Breininger, who was found dead from a single gunshot wound to the head back on Nov. 3, 2003. On that day, Defiance County Sheriff's deputies and emergency personnel responded to the home on the report of an alleged accidental shooting involving a then 10-year-old boy, Breininger's son.
According to the Defiance County Sheriff's Office, who is investigating the case, the day they got the call, deputies found Breininger in a bedroom of the couple's home in Mark Center with a single gunshot wound to the head. A coroner pronounced him dead at the scene.
"It was claimed at that time, that it was an accident shooting involving a young boy, and that's the way the matter was left," Prosecutor Murray tells WTOL 11.
The death was originally ruled accidental, but further investigation led to Hawkey's grand jury indictment in March 2013 at her first appearance in front of a judge.
"The information on what caused the investigation to be reopened as a homicide is not something I can comment on publicly," says Murray.
Now, Hawkey is facing six charges, including felony aggravated murder. Hawkey is also charged with four counts of endangering children, one of which is a second-degree felony.
Authorities allege that over a three to four-year period, Hawkey tortured and abused a child. The child was between ages 7 and 10 years during the alleged abuse.
Prosecutors tell WTOL 11 Hawkey is the only one facing charges in this case; no charges will be brought against the child.
Hawkey also faces charges for insurance fraud, in connection with an application for life insurance, which she collected after Breininger's death.
An investigation into Breininger's death is ongoing.
Hawkey is currently being held at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio on a $3 million bond. A pretrial hearing is set for April 1.
The Defiance County Sheriff's Office is asking anyone with information to call 419-784-1155, or contact the FBI, Crimes Against Children Task Force at 419-243-6122.
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