NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – The guilty verdict in an Oklahoma mother’s trial sparked social media outrage. However, the Cleveland County District Attorney is standing behind the jury’s ruling.
“We had a grand jury look at this case and decide charges were appropriate on Rebecca Hogue,” said District Attorney Greg Mashburn. “And then we just had a verdict in less than two hours where members of our community came and said, ‘Yes, she is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of permitting her child to be murdered.’”
A jury found Rebecca Hogue guilty of a first-degree murder charge for permitting child abuse in her son Jeremiah “Ryder” Johnson‘s death Wednesday. Jurors recommended life with the possibility of parole.
Ryder was found unresponsive inside their home on Jan. 1, 2020. His cause of death was blunt force trauma. Hogue’s then boyfriend, Christopher Trent, was the primary suspect. He hanged himself in the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge on January 4, 2020.
Hogue was implicated in her son’s death by allowing Trent to care for him, while she was working at Riverwind Casino.
The mother took photographs of his injuries over a period of time and asked Trent how the bruises happened.
“There has to be care and attention that goes into even taking a picture of one of your child’s bruises because that might be evidence against you,” said Andrew Casey.
Casey is Hogue’s attorney. During closing arguments, Casey stated when Hogue took Ryder to check out some bruises, the doctors never confirmed his bruises were child abuse. He asked the jury, “So, how should Hogue know?”
Mashburn told KFOR Hogue’s apparent suspicion of abuse to Jeremiah, followed by her decision to leave him in Trent’s care, made the charges appropriate.
“His eyes were swollen shut, bruises to the genitalia, repeated abuse,” said Mashburn. “The child was not even being responsive at one point at a time, and she continues to give the child over.”
However, Casey argued during trial that Trent gaslighted Hogue when she asked about the bruises. He would facetime her with Ryder smiling while she worked her 12-hour shift.
Despite rumors on social media, Mashburn told KFOR Hogue was not abused by Trent.
“I want to be 100 percent clear. Rebecca Hogue is not a domestic violence victim of Christopher Trent, who killed that baby,” said Mashburn. “She was not scared of him. She was not worried about what he would do physically to her.
Hogue’s guilty verdict sparked fierce debate on Facebook.
One commenter said, “She’s not Responsible for his choices let her go she doesn’t need to be a part of this (sic).”
Another one stated, “She knew there was possible abuse going on, yet she continued to make the choice to put her baby in the care of the abuser.”
Some viewers are asking why Mashburn continued to file charges, despite a Norman police detective expressing displeasure with the decision to charge Hogue with murder in a recording from January of 2020.
“I think he had the opinion early on with what little information he had and that time, but a lot more information came to light,” said Mashburn.
Mashburn told KFOR the detective made the comments before Ryder’s medical examiner report and cell phone records between Hogue and Trent were retrieved.
The detective who led the investigation into Ryder’s death was barred from sharing his opinion on the case during Hogue’s trial.
Hogue’s guilty verdict is now causing Hogue’s attorney to warn single parents about Oklahoma’s “Failure to Protect” law.
“We hope for the best for all single mothers and all parents – frankly, mother or father – through the state whenever they make decisions about who to leave their kids with because this case is so tragic,” said Casey.