Texas man sentenced to life in Cartwright girl's slaying

A Texas man pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life without parole in the strangling death of an 11-year-old girl.
BY SHEILA STOGSDILL sheilastogsdill@sbcglobal.net Published: December 2, 2011
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A Texas man who pleaded guilty in the death of an 11-year-old Cartwright girl has been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, a prosecutor said.

Jason Belew, 36, of Sherman, Texas, entered the plea to first-degree murder Wednesday in Bryan County in the death of Dakota Hughes, who prosecutors said was sexually assaulted and strangled.

“The family was in support of the plea,” District Attorney Emily Redman said. “Had it gone to trial, we were seeking the death penalty.”

Prosecutors said the victim had stripes around her neck and they think she was strangled with a belt.

Dakota's nude body was found Oct. 18, 2009, in a bedroom of the home of her aunt, Debbie Hughes, who lived next door. Dakota was in her father's custody and was spending the night with her aunt.

Dakota and Belew had been watching movies together on the night she died, her father, Bill Hughes, said at the time of her death.

Bill Hughes died Nov. 25, 2009, of an overdose of methadone and hydrocodone, according to Amy Elliott, state medical examiner's spokeswoman.

Debbie Hughes told investigators she and Belew, who was an acquaintance, had been drinking together before she passed out.

When she awoke, she told police, she found the child's body and Belew was missing, Redman said.

No charges were filed against Debbie Hughes even though she made extremely poor decisions in the matter, Redman said.

Dakota was a sixth-grade student at Colbert Elementary School.

Cartwright is a small town on the Red River southwest of Durant in Bryan County.

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