The Journal Gazette
Friday, August 27, 2021 1:00 am

Mural honors slain mom, children

East Pontiac Street artwork dedicated amid prayer, music

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

A block away from the Gay Street home where a mother and her three small children were slain in June, local clergy Thursday dedicated a large mural on a building wall to them in a ceremony marked by Scripture, prayer and music.

Local artist Teresa Ridley, already commissioned to create four Christian-oriented murals with other artists on the southeast side, designed the mural “Chosen,” which is painted on the east side of the Unity Barber Shop.

A Black Madonna stands with her child in the mural's center. On the right, she is wrapped in red roses representing those lost to violence, Ridley said at the dedication. On the left are four lilies added to the design to represent Sarah Zent, 26, and her three children, Carter, 5, Ashton, 3 and Aubree, 2, found together on the morning of June 2. 

The man held responsible for their deaths, Cohen B. Hancz-Barron, 21, was charged with four counts of murder and a life without parole enhancement. A four-day trial is scheduled in January. 

“This is overwhelming,” Melanie Fields, Sarah Zent's mother, said, taking a seat under tents erected at the dedication. “I just feel honored that they thought of my babies enough to add to this beautiful mural.” 

Speakers, including several spiritual leaders, worked with the chosen theme. For Chief Condra Ridley, it was John 15 verse 16: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.” 

The Rev. Bill McGill, pastor at Imani Baptist Temple, said he hoped that the Madonna and Child mural would give the community “a sense of divine protection and care.” 

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Roman Catholic Diocese, blessed the mural with holy water after his remarks. Other speakers included the Rev. Patrick Hake, pastor of St. Peter's Catholic Parish, and Pastor Karen Staton of the Destiny Life Center. Fort Wayne Philharmonic musician Derek Reeves played “Ave Maria” on a violin. 

The ceremony ended with a healing drum solo by Diane Rogers, president of the Oxford Street Association and former Fort Wayne police officer. But first she read some advice about helping children. 

“Take your feet and walk with them when they need someone to walk with,” she said before she played the melodic “hang” drum, a copper instrument from Switzerland. 

Three other murals have been painted in this series, the first on the Vincent Village building on East Pontiac Street, another on the west side of the Unity Barber Shop, also on East Pontiac Street, and a mural titled “Blessed Among Women” on South Calhoun Street. 

Additional murals are in the planning stage, Staton said, and follow the same criteria that every mural have a religious theme, incorporate a minority identity and be located in southeast Fort Wayne.

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