FLOYD COUNTY —
As the mother of the victims wept loudly in the front row of Floyd Superior Court No. 1, a plea of not guilty was entered for Cody Cashion, as the New Albany teenager faces three counts of murder and one arson charge stemming from a Jan. 4 house fire that killed three children.
Judge Susan Orth entered the not guilty plea on behalf of Cashion, who appeared in open court for the first time since being arrested on the murder charges last month.
The not guilty plea will be formalized in 19 days unless Cashion — who did not have an attorney present and will be appointed a public defender — submits to change the plea.
According to authorities, Cashion fired a flare into the 335 Ealy St. home in the early morning hours of Jan. 4. The flare ignited a blaze that took the lives of Trinity Hughes, 2, Tyrese Hughes, 4, and Tai’zah Hughes, 6. Another child, Taty’ana, 5, was injured in the fire.
The children didn’t live at the house but were staying there with their mother, Theresa Hughes.
According to officials, Cashion fired the flare into the home in retaliation over an apparent property dispute with someone who had been living in the house.
Steve Owen, chief deputy prosecutor for the Floyd County Prosecutors office, maintained following Tuesday’s initial hearing that investigators still have no reason to believe Cashion knew there were children inside the house when he allegedly fired the flare gun.
However Cashion is still being charged with three counts of felony murder, and one count of arson resulting in bodily injury.
The murder charges carry a minimum sentence of 45 years and a maximum of 65 years, along with a $10,000 fine. The arson charge carries a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum of 50 years.
Owen explained the murder charges mean that, in the view of investigators, Cashion intended to commit a felony by firing the flare into the house. The killings happened as a result of that action but were not Cashion’s intent, Owen said.
Cashion was implicated in the fire after he was arrested on Jan. 8 by Clarksville police officers. He allegedly struck CPD officer Jason Tackett’s cruiser with his vehicle following a traffic stop, and Cashion was charged with attempted murder following the incident.
According to officials, information about the New Albany fire was revealed during the CPD investigation of Cashion.
Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson announced last month that details about the investigation would be sealed for at least a month. Orth declined to set bail for Cashion. She cited information prosecutors had unveiled during a closed probable cause hearing about the case as the reason for not setting bail.
Cashion entered the courtroom on Tuesday bound in chains and wearing a bright orange inmate suit. Relatives of the fallen children sobbed just a few feet away from Cashion, as the chargers were read aloud by Orth.
As Orth discussed Cashion’s rights, the teenager turned his head briefly to the right and looked out a window in the courtroom. He answered Orth’s questions in a low, steady tone, and showed little reaction.
Cashion said he had been appointed a public defender in Clark County, but has yet to meet with them. Orth said she would assign a Floyd County public defender to handle his case.
The next pretrial conference is set for March 18, and Orth established July 7 as the date to begin the trial.
After the brief hearing, Owen told a group of reporters that more details about the investigation will likely be revealed on Friday.
According to Owen, one of the two owners of the Ealy Street home were present when the fire started.
While he said no one else has been arrested in the case, Owen didn’t rule out the possibility.
“We certainly are investigating other people,” Owen said.