MONTROSE – There was no question that Jeremy Hodges would receive a 40-year sentence in Judge Jeff Herron’s court Monday morning. Hodges, 28, recently changed his plea to second-degree murder in the 2006 death of Steven Kublin.
Assistant District Attorney Jerry Montgomery characterized Hodges as a man thought well of by many, but who became “psychotic” when he drank.
Ironically, Hodges often gave help to homeless people, but something went horribly wrong after he picked up Kublin hitchhiking outside of Delta on Nov. 6, 2006.
Hodges took Kublin home, drank with him, and invited him to take a shower and spend the night. Then Hodges crept to Kublin’s bedside and killed him as he slept.
“He grabbed the back of his head and stabbed him and then proceeded to make sure he was dead by cutting his throat,” Montgomery said.
Both Montgomery and defense attorney Harvey Palefsky said this was one of their most difficult cases in trying to determine a motive. Hodges said his memory of the night is blurry.
The next morning, Hodges took Kublin to Landfill Road outside of Montrose, doused his body with a flammable liquid, and set it on fire. Kublin’s body was found a few days later.
“This was a senseless, tragic occurrence,” Montgomery said. “The Hodges family will be impacted forever, and the Kublin family will be impacted forever.”
But the mood in Herron’s courtroom was not one of vengeance or even justice. It was one of pervading sadness. Eloquent and heartfelt speeches by the victim’s family, by Herron and even by Hodges brought tears to the Kublin and Hodges families, seated on opposite sides of the courtroom.
During the hour-long sentencing hearing, both Palefsky and Montgomery said this was one of the most difficult to understand cases they’d ever worked on.
“In the pre-sentence report, there are two Jeremys,” Palefsky said, “a gentle, hard-working man who would go out of his way to do things for other people, and the other side that came out that night.”
“This is the most puzzling case I’ve ever had, as far as motive,” Montgomery said.
As Kublin’s family members spoke, Steven’s mother, Estelle Kublin, painted a picture of a loving but unconventional son.
“He looked homeless, and he was,” she said. “But he wrote beautiful poetry and worked odd jobs when he could, and panhandled when he had to.”
Steven maintained close ties to his family she said, never forgetting birthdays, bar mitzvahs or anniversaries.
“When you see a homeless person, remember they are someone’s brother, sister, mother or father,” she said. “They are not bad people.”
One of the most remarkable statements came from Steven’s brother, Ron Kublin, when he forgave Hodges for killing his brother.
“Mr. Hodges, I don’t hate you, I’m not capable of that, like my brother,” he said. “My heart goes out in grief, not anger. I hope you find something positive in your life. I forgive you.”
When it was Hodges time to speak, he expressed his remorse to the Kublin family. He said he doesn’t remember the killing, and his last recollection of that night was when Steven went to take a shower.
Hodges said he had been reading the Bible and had formed a relationship with God during his months in jail.
“Two houses are filled with sorrow,” Hodges said. “I’m not asking for redemption when there is no redemption, and I will humbly receive my punishment.”
At the end of the hearing, Judge Herron talked about the way the case had affected him.
“The overriding thing I’ve heard hear today is sadness,” he said.
Herron praised the Kublin family for sharing the details of Steven’s life.
“Your attitude and statements today tell me even more about him,” he said. “He was kind and gentle and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. You have a wonderful attitude.”
He also said that letters supporting Hodges from former employers, landlords, family and friends were among the most complimentary he’d ever received.
“Sometimes it makes it easier when the person who commits the crime is a horrible person, locking up someone who is completely evil, but I don’t think that’s what we’ve got here,” he said.
But Hodges knew his personality changed completely because of his drinking – his ex-wife left him because she said he became “demonic” when he got drunk – but he chose to keep drinking, leading to his crime, Herron said.
Montgomery said experts had indicated Hodges was not like other alcoholics in that he became psychotic, almost schizophrenic, even using different voices when he spoke.
But that’s no excuse, Herron said, and the punishment fit the crime.
“Mr. Hodges, you’ll have about 40 years to become a better man,” he said. “You were playing with fire by continuing to drink. The psychotic episodes and your behavior not only ruined your life, but others as well.”