New Albany man convicted in wife's murder appeals sentence

Aprile Rickert, The Evening News and the Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind.
·4 min read

May 4—NEW ALBANY — A man convicted in August of killing his wife and hiding her body for nearly a month is appealing his 65-year-sentence with a court document stating his quick guilty plea should have gotten more favorable consideration from the judge.

Judson Hoover, 50, was arrested Aug. 31 and charged with the murder of his wife, Rebecca, days after one of the couple's children reported to a school counselor witnessing his father kill his mother at their New Albany home earlier that month.

On Sept. 3, the same day he was charged and appeared for an initial hearing, Hoover pleaded guilty to his wife's death, with his attorney telling the court it was to prevent the child who witnessed the death from having to testify during a trial.

He was sentenced Nov. 13 to the maximum of 65 years by then-Floyd County Superior Court No. 1 Judge Susan Orth. Under Indiana sentencing guidelines, he would have to serve 75% of that, or 48 years and nine months. In exchange for his immediate guilty plea, Floyd County Prosecutor Chris Lane agreed not to seek the death penalty or life without parole.

An appellate brief filed Monday states that the court abused its discretion by discounting Hoover's guilty plea as a significant mitigating factor and that the maximum sentence is inappropriate in this case.

According to the brief, Rebecca Hoover had started using methamphetamine, which was "getting out of control and causing erratic behavior." She is said to have started leaving the home for extended periods of time and abusing her husband and the children.

DCS became involved, and Hoover participated in services, although he said his wife did not and refused addiction treatment. Hoover got a restraining order against Rebecca, and a family intervention specialist advised him to have a bag packed and exit plan for himself and the children if she returned home and caused chaos.

The brief states that his wife returned home on July 28 then left again Aug. 2, returning sometime between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. Hoover was asleep and said Rebecca started hitting him with a metal pipe. In evidence during the court case it came up that he'd said she had hit him 200 times or more. The fight moved to the basement, which ended with Hoover kicking his wife in the head, punching her in the stomach with a set of keys and strangling her.

He said two of the children hid in their room during the fight but one hid behind a chair and witnessed the whole thing, later reporting it to a school counselor.

Following her death, Hoover first hid her in a trash can in the garage then a deep freeze. He later dismembered her body and put it in a 55-gallon barrel that was moved to two different storage units.

"Rebecca Hoover wasn't just murdered," Judge Orth said before she handed down the sentence in November. "She was brutalized...her body was mutilated and treated as refuse."

The appellate brief states that Hoover had also been severely abused by his father for years, and that he had suffered from severe depression most of his life. It requests the appellate court to revise his sentence "substantially downward."

"To be sure, Rebecca's murder was tragic and brutal," it reads. "While there is no excusing Rebecca's killing, there are circumstances surrounding the murder which should be considered mitigating. According to Judson, he and the children were victims of Rebecca's domestic violence and drug use which led directly to the murder. Again, this does not in any way justify Rebecca's death, but it does put the events underlying the charged offense into context...."

It also notes, as Hoover's attorney did in court, that the prosecutor's decision to not seek the death penalty or life without parole is meaningless, since due to Hoover's age of 50, a sentence of more than 48 years to serve would be a de facto life sentence.

"Very few defendants agree to plead guilty on the same day that charges are filed against them," it reads. "Judson received absolutely no benefit for bestowing such an extraordinary benefit on the state, the judicial system, and most importantly, the victims."

Indiana Department of Correction information shows Hoover is now housed at the New Castle Psychiatric Unit. His projected release date from prison is May 31, 2069.