Fort Wayne — For all intents and purposes, Zach Doan ended the life of his 80-year-old victim when he bloodied her face with his closed fists, robbing her of her eyesight, independence and security.
And when the 19-year-old scampered off with a mere $100 from her purse, leaving her unconscious on the floor, she lost everything she owned to pay for her continued medical care.
To hear her family describe it, Nancy’s life as she lived it, and as she wanted to live it until she died, was and is over. The Journal Gazette is not publishing her last name because of her age and condition.
Doan pleaded guilty last week, the day his trial was to begin, to charges of burglary and robbery. Before Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull sentenced Doan on Friday to a total of 70 years in prison, she watched a heartbreaking video interview recorded by Nancy’s granddaughter.
Her voice halting as she lost track of what she was saying, the elderly woman tried to articulate what she had lost.
“He took my life. I had a life,” she said. “A full life. He took my everything from me. I’ve just lost my ...”
“I know what you mean,” said her granddaughter, Jen Bumgardner-Fecher.
“I get very upset with all that I’ve lost,” Nancy continued. “I’ve lost my sanity. I know that I’m sane, but I can’t understand, ...”
In a panicked tone, Nancy told her granddaughter about how she told some men at her nursing home to get her down from the forklift, believing she was on her bed and elevated in the air.
“Come to find out, I was in my room,” she said.
Along with the effects of her injuries, the full-blown raging case of post-traumatic stress disorder is slowly killing her, according to prosecutors. Anxious and depressed, she refuses to eat or drink, which is causing her body to shut down.
The bright 80-year-old who lived alone and prided herself in her ability to retain her driver’s license and continued to drive, “that person has died,” Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Tesa Helge said.
According to court documents and testimony, Doan knew Nancy, as he was the nephew of her neighbor. As he was growing up, the older woman would give him candy. He preyed on that.
She was on the phone when he knocked on her door, asking to use her bathroom. She let him, and then he wanted to borrow some gasoline, though he’d never had a driver’s license. Even though she was becoming suspicious after his lengthy potty break, she sent him to her garage for some gasoline. He came back, though, telling her the gas can was broken. He told her he needed to use the phone.
Becoming suspicious, she sent him on his way. According to Helge, Doan stood outside her picture window and glared at her.
Within moments, Nancy heard something come crashing into her kitchen. It was Doan, and he met her delicate, aged face with a fist, smashing her nose and “pulverizing” her eye, according to testimony.
Nerve damage to both eyes rendered her blind.
The photograph, captured by a police officer before paramedics arrived, said so much more than the testimony – a woman in a blue dress, curlers in her silver hair and jewelry on her wrists and fingers, holding a telephone as blood streamed down her face.
Gull held up the picture, making sure Doan could see it.
“I’ve seen lots of horrific things, ... burned into my brain,” she said. “This is what you do? This is what you do? This is what you did. To a little old lady who would have given you anything. It’s beyond the pale.”
She noted that the hulking teenager, weighing 273 pounds and standing 6-foot-3, showed little emotion during the hearing and nothing when he was reading a written apology to the families. He wiped a few tears from his eyes when his sister spoke, but when Nancy’s daughter spoke, breaking down in tears, Doan read his paperwork and rocked slightly.
Gull reduced the burglary charge from a Class A felony to a Class B felony and then ordered that 20-year sentence served after he served a 50-year sentence for the robbery.
“There’s not much we can do to protect ourselves from a man who would do this to a little old lady,” Gull said.
After the hearing, Bumgardner-Fecher said the family was satisfied with the 70-year prison sentence but found it telling and disheartening that Doan took little to no responsibility for his actions.
Bumgardner-Fecher said that had Doan done so, it would have been a benefit to her.
After Doan was led out of the courtroom, his sister and another family member raced to the other side of the Courthouse’s third floor, trying to make contact with him before bailiffs could stop them.
As they pushed their way out the doors, Nancy’s family gathered in the gallery of the courtroom and prayed.