Printed: December 08, 2021

Family of murdered UT student relives pain

Ex-officer’s parole hearing looming

BY ALEXANDRA MESTER BLADE STAFF WRITER

The daily pain the family of a University of Toledo nursing student slain nearly 30 years ago continues to suffer can’t even be summed up.

“No words can describe it,” Cindy Herstrum-Clark, sister of the victim, told The Blade. “It impacts our daily lives as we have all tried to move forward.”

Melissa Anne Herstrum, 19, was killed in January, 1992, by a then-22-year-old UT police officer. Jeffrey Hodge, now 52, is scheduled for his first parole hearing in about three weeks, on Sept. 21 or 22.

“This is a person who wanted to attend my sister’s autopsy after shooting her 14 times,” Ms. Herstrum-Clark said Tuesday. “Words don’t even describe how evil he is and the fear I would have if he were to be considered for release.”

Hodge had driven Ms. Herstrum in his cruiser to UT’s Scott Park campus, handcuffed her, forced her to lie face down, and shot her 14 times in the head, back, and legs.

It took investigators several days to zero in on Hodge, and he continued to work as a police officer in the meantime, with tasks that included checking in on Ms. Herstrum’s Pi Beta Phi sorority sisters and attending a memorial service on campus.

He pleaded guilty in 1993 in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to aggravated murder with a firearm and kidnapping. Judge Judith Ann Lanzinger issued a maximum sentence: life in prison with the possibility of parole after 33 years. He was sentenced before life without parole was possible in Ohio.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction on Tuesday provided information about its calculations allowing Hodge to be up for parole several years early.

Spokesman JoEllen Smith said Hodge is eligible for parole after a 30 percent reduction for good time served on the minimum 10-year sentence for the kidnapping charge combined with 430 days of jail-time credit and 113 days of earned credit toward his first hearing date.

Ms. Smith said Hodge, now imprisoned at the Marion Correctional Facility, has not been found guilty of any rule infractions since 2011, when he was given a conduct report for being out of place.

Ms. Herstrum-Clark said family members last week met with a parole board member during a victims conference, which is part of the parole process. Friends and family are cooperating in a letter-writing campaign to the board seeking to keep Hodge in prison. A website for the effort, melissaforever.com, was launched Saturday.

“We have to have faith the process will work to make sure that he remains incarcerated for the rest of his life,” Ms. Herstrum-Clark said.

The corrections department does not release information regarding inmates’ attorneys or representatives, Ms. Smith said, so it is unclear whether Hodge has one.

Contact Alexandra Mester

at amester@theblade.com or

on Twitter @AlexMesterBlade.