Her Boyfriend Killed Her Son. But She's the One Behind Bars

Rebecca Hogue sentenced to 16 months under Oklahoma's failure to protect law
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 15, 2022 11:43 AM CST
Updated Feb 20, 2022 7:31 AM CST

An Oklahoma woman will ultimately spend more than a year in jail for the first-degree murder of her 2-year-old son, whom she never harmed. Rebecca Hogue, a 30-year-old Norman resident, had returned home from a 12-hour work shift in the early hours of Jan. 1, 2020, per the BBC. When she awoke, her son wasn't breathing and her boyfriend was nowhere to be found. Authorities eventually concluded Christopher Trent had killed 2-year-old Ryder via blunt-force trauma, before killing himself. Trent's body was found days later in the Wichita Mountains, close to a tree on which the words "Rebecca is innocent" were carved. Hogue was nonetheless convicted of first-degree murder in November.

Under Oklahoma's "failure to protect" law, a parent who fails to protect a child from abuse can face the same charges as the abuser. Though Hogue denied knowing that Trent was abusing her son, prosecutors said she'd performed an internet search for signs of child abuse, suggesting she had some clues. The jury in her case—barred from seeing an image of the tree carving and from hearing a recording of detectives describing the case as "bulls---"—recommended a sentence of life in prison. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections, however, recommended mental health treatment in lieu of jail time, per the Norman Transcript. On Friday, Judge Michael Tupper decided Hogue did "not deserve to die in prison."

Hogue had told the court that she would do anything to go back and prevent her son's death. "I was so proud of having such a beautiful, strong, smart, healthy child" and "the only thing in two years that has brought me peace is that the man who did this is dead," she said, per the Transcript. "I know my child is in heaven and that [Trent] is nowhere near him." "You are not a monster. You have value and you have worth," Tupper told her in suspending the life sentence to 16 months. Hogue will be released in 13 months due to time served, per the AP. Though family members are "heartbroken" and "frustrated that this charge ever made it to court," they are "unbelievably relieved" at the outcome, lawyer Andrew Casey told the BBC. (Read more Oklahoma stories.)

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