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A Norman, Oklahoma, mother has been found guilty of murder and recommended to receive life in prison, following explosive testimony from both the prosecution and the defense during her trial. Rebecca Hogue’s son Jeremiah “Ryder” Johnson, aged two, was killed on January 1, 2020. 

Ms. Hogue’s boyfriend, Christopher Trent, is accused of abusing the boy so severely he died from his injuries. Mr. Trent then died by suicide several days after Ryder’s death.

Prosecutors successfully argued that Ms. Hogue either knew about the severe abuse at the hands of her boyfriend, or should have known based on Ryder’s injuries. The most severe of the abuse occurred just before his death.

Rebecca Hogue and her son Jeremiah “Ryder” Johnson.
Rebecca Hogue and her son Jeremiah “Ryder” Johnson.

Judge bars defense’s evidence as hearsay

However, prosecutors alleged that rather than admit that her boyfriend was harming her son, Ms. Hogue told doctors that Ryder injured himself by falling at home. During the trial, the prosecution successfully argued that Ms. Hogue made up such stories to cover the truth behind Ryder’s injuries. 

Meanwhile, the detectives who investigated Mr. Trent following Ryder’s death found an eerie sight at the location of his body: “Rebecca is innocent” was carved into a nearby tree. While the lead detective in the case testified, the judge barred him from telling the jury about the carving in the tree, which he deemed hearsay.

Cleveland County District Judge Michael Tupper also prohibited the lead detective, Norman Police Department investigator Sean Judy, from offering his “thoughts, beliefs or opinions relating to the conclusion of the investigation.”

Jury recommends life in prison

Initially, Detective Judy and the Norman Police Department did not believe there was enough evidence for the Norman District Attorney to prosecute Ms. Hogue. In fact, in personal correspondence that was also barred from being used during the trial, Detective Judy expressed disbelief that Ms. Hogue had committed a crime, much less a crime that required prosecution. 

However, she was eventually charged with murder. While her defense unsuccessfully argued in favor of giving Ms. Hogue the benefit of the doubt, the jury recommended life in prison for the Norman woman. 

A petition asking Oklahoma Governor Stitt to release Rebecca Hogue has so far garnered over 500 signatures.

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...