Police: DNA connects Hughes to gun

James Hughes

DNA on a revolver found near a Zionsville man’s body matched DNA of a man arrested Wednesday and charged with murder, according to court records.

Samuel Bennett, 23, suffered two gunshot wounds consistent with the damage a .357 Magnum could inflict, according to preliminary autopsy reports, Zionsville Police Detective Joshua Samuelson reported in a probable cause affidavit.

James E. Hughes, 23, of Zionsville, has been charged with his murder.

Bennett’s body was found at about 7 a.m. April 28 in a retention pond area behind 251 Quail Run Drive — an hour after six calls were made to 911 to report gunshots in that area.

Police did not find spent shell casings near the body, according to court records.

The crime scene is near Zionsville Town Hall and the Big Four Rail Trail. Police said Bennett had apparently been running on the trail before dawn.

ZPD Lt. Drake Sterling left the trail north of the crime scene on foot and followed a game trail to a creek, where he found footprints near and through the creek, according to court records. Police made casts of the shoes that had a unique hexagonal patterned sole, Samuelson reported.

ZPD Officer Thomas Lucas reportedly found a Charter Arms .357 Magnum 5-shot revolver nearby. Revolvers do not automatically eject cartridges as they fire. All five cartridges in the revolver had received primer strikes, but one failed to fire, which fits accounts of witnesses who said they heard several shots, a pause, and then another shot, Samuelson reported.

Police took DNA samples from the revolver that had a serial number matching one bought by David Meschino Jr., 28, of Zionsville.

Meschino claims he bought three handguns for Hughes, a .357 Magnum in June, and two others in March, but later regretted doing so and reported his actions to police two weeks before Bennett was killed, according to a probable cause affidavit filed May 2, charging Meschino with attempting to provide a firearm to an ineligible person.

Hughes allegedly told Meschino that someone “had a beef” with him and he had a felony arrest record that prevented him from buying firearms, court records indicate. Hughes did not have a felony record, police reported.

Police reported earlier in the investigation that Hughes had the receipt for the Charter Arms .357 Magnum that Meschino bought, but Samuelseon clarified in recent documents that Hughes had other related materials, not the receipt, when police searched his bedroom.

Police set up surveillance on the home of Hughes’ mother, Shannon Hughes, at 30 Phillips Place, Zionsville, while awaiting a warrant, and she approached them, revealing that she and her estranged husband took their son to the St. Vincent Stress Center in Indianapolis the evening of April 28.

William Hughes of Lowell said the couple hired an attorney who advised them to take James to the stress center and speak to no one about circumstances surrounding the day, Samuelson reported. William told police that his wife called him “when everything happened,” and that she told him “he did it,” Samuelson reported, noting that William and Shannon wanted to cooperate with police, while also protecting other family members.

Criminal defense attorney Jeffrey Cardella of Indianapolis is listed on court records as James Hughes’ counsel. He did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

Police searched James Hughes’ Zionsville room and found a light blue Nirvana T-shirt, black shorts, and an additional .357 cartridge, and at the stress center, they found his tennis shoes that were mud stained and had soles like those found in the creek, according to court records.

A Pennsylvania man walking his dog on the trail the morning of April 28 told police he saw a muscular young man in a light blue Nirvana T-shirt and black shorts pacing and looking as if he were in deep thought at about 7 a.m., Samuelson reported.

Police also collected a DNA sample from Hughes, and preliminary tests indicate it matched DNA left on the Charter Arms .357 revolver found near Bennett’s body, Samuelson reported.

Police served 12 search warrants, finding an incomplete box of .357 Magnum cartridges in Hughes' bedroom at his mother’s house and one cartridge in his stress center room, Samuelson reported, adding that cartridges found in Hughes’s rooms and the revolver found at the site had matching stamps on the caps.

Meschino could not immediately account for his whereabouts April 28 but has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum and can hamper memory, Samuelson reported, noting that Meschino’s parents said he was at their house, and they are working with police to establish his presence there.

Zionsville Police arrested Hughes after 5 p.m. Wednesday in Indianapolis. He is being held without bond in the Boone County Jail, and is tentatively scheduled for a September jury trial.

Hughes’ Facebook page says he is a floor technician at Zionsville Meadows, began work at The Workout Hub March 11 and went to Lowell High School.

Bennett was one of four sons of Jackie and Cindy Bennett of Zionsville. His funeral was Saturday.

Investigators ask the public to report any information regarding the case, or any suspicious activity. Call the Zionsville Police Department at 317-873-5967 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, or Boone County Central Dispatch at 765-482-1412 any time. In particular, police would like to speak with anyone who was on the Big-4 Rail Trail between the hours of 5 and 7:30 a.m. April 28.

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