Colerain Teen Sentenced, Has Nightmares About Murdered Milan Woman
By Mike Perleberg
(Versailles, Ind.) – Daniel Hodge’s defense attorney says the 17-year-old has nightmares about the night he was involved in the murder of Milan resident Nancy Hershman.
That’s just fine with Hershman’s relatives, who want the Colerain Township teenager to never forget what he took from their family and community.
Hodge was 16-years-old when he, Sean Nichols, and Allison Moore burglarized two homes in Milan in the early morning hours of December 30, 2012. In breaking into the second home, Nancy Hershman’s residence on West Ellis Street, they were confronted by the widow. Moore allegedly shot Hershman using a stolen gun brought along by Nichols. The group then fled the home.
Originally charged with Murder, Hodge pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of Burglary of a Dwelling Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury (Class A felony) in June. He was back in Ripley Circuit Court on Thursday to be sentenced.
In line with the plea agreement worked out between prosecutors and defense attorney John Watson, Judge Carl H. Taul ordered Hodge to serve 50 years. Thirty-seven of those years will be served in an Indiana prison. Another 13 were suspended to probation.
Hodge was given credit for his time served in jail following his and his alleged accomplices’ arrests about a week after the shooting. He is to have no contact with the others accused in the crime or the first robbery victim.
Explaining that his client has trouble verbalizing his feelings, defense attorney John Watson spoke on Hodge’s behalf at the sentencing.
“He is truly remorseful,” said Watson. “But that won’t change what happened or bring this lady back.”
Hershman’s only daughter, Dawn Evans, testified that she wanted Hodge to know who her mother, a former Milan Community Schools bus driver and supporter, was.
“My mother was a woman like no other… There is no doubt about the influence she continues to be on me and the community,” Evans said.
Darlene Grace, Hershman’s sister, was also among the more than 15 friends and relatives in court wearing buttons with Nancy’s picture. With Hodge’s attention focused on her, Grace recalled heading to the home the night of the murder and the “19 miserable months” since.
“You’ve created a heck of a mess for Nancy’s family,” she explained. “You and your friends had done something really, really nasty… I’m glad you think about it every day. I think you should have nightmares about it.”
Grace asked Taul to give Hodge the penalty agreed to. Before leaving the stand, she said she sees potential in the young man.
“I hope you will grow up in prison, learn from this someday, and become that Daniel Hodge you can be. You’re a boy who needs leadership,” she told him.
Ripley County Prosecutor Ric Hertel said Hodge has never apologized to the family.
“His lawyer spoke for him. Coming from the family’s perspective, I can see why they don’t believe there is any remorse since he has never apologized to them for what happened. He’s accepted responsibility for his role, but he’s never sought them out and asked for forgiveness or anything like that,” said the prosecutor.
Hodge is the second of the three suspects to be convicted and sent to prison for Hershman’s death. Nichols, 16, was sentenced by Taul to 50 years – 20 of them on probation – after pleading guilty in January.
Hertel said he felt Hodge’s level of culpability in the crime was higher than Nichols. According to Nichols’ past testimony, Hodge asked Nichols to come along with he and Moore that night because he knew Nichols had a gun. Nichols at first did not have knowledge of Hodge and Moore’s plan to rob a marijuana dealer in Milan. Hodge was also the only suspect with connections to Indiana.
“He knew a young girl around his age that used to live in that house. I believe it was rented to a family by Nancy Hershman prior to her death and prior to her moving back in,” Hertel said.
Allison Moore, 23, was the alleged trigger person in the shooting death. Her case is still pending as prosecutors and her counsel await an Indiana Court of Appeals ruling on whether statements she made to Indiana State Police investigators should be allowed as evidence.
Hertel said regardless of the ruling on Moore’s statements, his office will be taking the case to trial, but admitted that earning a conviction could be made more difficult without the evidence.