Anthony Hutchens sentenced for murder of Grace Ross

Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 11:27 AM EDT
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ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - A superior court judge handed down a 64-year suspended sentence on Friday morning for 16-year-old Anthony Hutchens, the teen found guilty in the 2021 murder and molestation of 6-year-old Grace Ross.

This type of sentence could open the possibility of Hutchens being released when he turns 18, but it could also end up with him serving his full sentence at an adult prison.

The sentencing term of 55 years for murder and 9 years for child molestation took a backseat to the discussion of whether or not Hutchens should be sentenced as an adult or a juvenile.

Judge Sanford ended up going with the latter, and here’s what that means.

Hutchens will be headed to a juvenile detention facility and will continue to accrue time served toward the murder sentence until his case is reevaluated after he turns 18.

That reevaluation could go in several directions, from having Hutchens continue his sentence at the juvenile facility until he ages out at 21, to moving him to an adult facility for the remainder of his sentence, to placing him in community corrections, or even releasing him.

The state declined 16 News Now’s interview request following the sentencing, but here’s what Hutchens’ attorney had to say.

“Rather than make a decision today and sentence him to over 60 years in prison, a decision that could never be revisited, he sentenced him to the division of youth services, which doesn’t necessarily mean that Anthony is going to be released at any particular time, but it offers him the opportunity to receive treatment and services and for the judge to revisit the sentence at various points in the future,” said Jeff Kimmell, Hutchens’ public defender.

Other conditions of this sentencing are that Hutchens will have to register as a sex offender at the time of his release and that he will start serving the 9 years for molestation after he serves the 55-year sentence for murder. The time he spends in the juvenile facility will contribute to the 748 days of time served he’s already accrued if he’s ordered to carry out any sentence after reevaluation.

Judge Sanford convicted Hutchens back on Jan. 26 following a two-day bench trial. Even back then, prosecutors acknowledged the possibility of what actually played out during sentencing saying “When a child, someone who is a juvenile, still under the age of 18 is convicted of a crime as an adult, it opens up a lot of other possibilities that are not available when an adult is sentenced.”

Judge Sanford said this ruling is reflective of reformation goals with incarceration, not vindication.

His reevaluation could mean the difference between Hutchens being released in the next two years or having to serve his full sentence in adult prison.

Regardless of when he is released, Hutchens will have to register as a violent sex offender.

Ross’s grandmother talked as a witness on Friday about how sentencing Hutchens as an adult would bring them some finality. This result gives Hutchens an opportunity for reformation, but the victim’s family will still have to wait for closure.