November 3, 2003
Defiance, Ohio
10-year-old Corey Breininger fatally shoots his father Robert, allegedly at the behest of his stepmother Judith Hawkey

According to Corey during the initial investigation, he and his father had been talking when he accidentally fired a gun from across the room and struck Robert in the head. Corey attempted to perform CPR on his father but was unable to revive him.

Responders questioned Corey’s version of the events. Robert appeared to have been shot while laying down, possibly as he slept, rather than standing as Corey claimed. The wound indicated the gun had been inches from his head. And despite Corey’s claim of performing CPR, he had no blood on his hands or clothing. Despite the inconsistencies, investigators opted not to look into the discrepancies based on how devastated Corey was. Robert’s death was ruled accidental.

Nearly 10 years later, Corey revealed to a former teacher a new version of the events: he claimed his stepmother Judith Hawkey had convinced him to kill his father. Hawkey claimed, Corey said, Robert was dying from a brain tumor and wanted to ensure the family would receive his $500,000 insurance policy. Corey stated Hawkey told him where the gun was located and instructed him on how to call 911 after killing his father. Investigations were re-launched with Corey’s new story, which were supported by the fact Hawkey had started filing paperwork on Robert’s insurance claim the day after the shooting.

Hawkey was convicted of aggravated murder and insurance fraud in 2013 and sentenced to life in prison. She was re-tried in 2016 during an appeal, based on evidence of inconsistencies with Corey’s new story. He had claimed Hawkey had beaten him for years though Hawkey’s defense attorney noted a social worker had investigated and found no evidence of child abuse, and no medical records could be found to support the abuse claims. Hawkey changed her plea in 2019 to the Alford plea — in which the defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges the prosecution has sufficient evidence to convict — in exchange for a lighter sentence. The court accept her plea for involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment, and received a new sentence of 10 years in prison.

Judith Hawkey

Seewer, John. “Woman Accused of Swaying Boy to Kill Dad Makes Plea Deal.” US News & World Report. March 5, 2019. Accessed: November 3, 2019.
Helberg, Todd. “Hawkey enters plea, sentenced to 10 years.” The Crescent-News. March 1, 2019. Accessed: November 3, 2019.
Seewer, John. “Did woman sway boy to kill his dad? Court raises doubts.” The Journal News [Hamilton, Ohio]. May 2, 2016

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