Horn Convicted for Three Murders
By Karl Vick
Lawrence T. Horn was found guilty on three counts of first-degree murder and one of murder conspiracy today by a jury that decided the former Motown recording engineer hired a Detroit man to execute his former wife, an overnight nurse and the severely retarded 8-year-old son whose estate Horn stood to inherit.
Horn, 56, betrayed no emotion as the verdicts were read in a packed courtroom after 7 1/2 hours of deliberations. Standing in the blue suit he has worn every day of the month-long trial, the defendant shifted his eyes from the jury forewoman only when she answered "guilty" to the count naming his son.
Trevor Horn left behind a $1.7 million trust fund from a malpractice settlement that arose from the hospital incident that left him a quadriplegic. Lawrence Horn was fighting in civil court to inherit that money when he was arrested in the murders along with James Edward Perry. Perry, who purchased a how-to manual titled "Hit Man" and followed it almost to the letter in Mildred Horn's Silver Spring home on the night of March 3, 1993, was sentenced to death three times by a Montgomery County jury in October.
The Frederick County jury will reassemble on May 13 to decide Horn's fate. His trial was moved from Montgomery when Horn exercised his right under state law to move his death penalty case from the original jurisdiction.
"There's no joy in this decision, because joy was taken from us on March the 3rd, 1993," said Terry Krebs, whose sister Janice Roberts Saunders was 38 the night she rose from her chair beside Trevor Horn's bed and was shot in the eye.
"I'm just glad that we got a guilty verdict," said Tiffani Horn, 21, who testified that her father had asked her to videotape the interior of her mother's house, apparently so that Horn could acquaint Perry with the killing ground.
"Not only were my mother and my brother and Janice killed, but my family was destroyed," Tiffani Horn said, her voice breaking. "I hope when this is over, we'll be able to rebuild it, because that's all we have, is family."
Horn's attorneys declined to comment on the verdict.
Montgomery Deputy State's Attorney Robert Dean said it brought "a certain completion and finality" to a multimillion-dollar three-year investigation that seemed proportionate to the magnitude of the crime.
The bodies were discovered in the early morning on a cul-de-sac called Northgate Drive near Bel Pre Road. Like Saunders, American Airlines flight attendant Mildred Horn, 43, had been shot in the eye with a .22-caliber rifle.
The method and caliber were recommended in "Hit Man," whose publisher is being sued in U.S. District Court by members of Mildred Horn's family who claim the book aided the murders. A hearing in U.S. District Court on whether the First Amendment's free speech guarantee applies to the book is scheduled for July 22.
Trevor's body lay amid stuffed animals in his criblike bed, the shrill alarm on his medical monitor carrying through the house. An autopsy showed the boy was smothered by someone who placed one hand over the tracheostomy opening in his throat and the other hand over his nose and mouth. Prosecutors said a blade of grass found on his cheek apparently was left by the killer.
Lawrence Horn was always the prime suspect, police said. His divorce from the former Millie Maree had been bitter, his attitude toward Trevor indifferent. Since being laid off by Motown in 1990, Horn had fallen deeply into debt. And even the judge in the hospital malpractice case told police that Horn had seemed unusually interested in the size of the settlement.
Horn's whereabouts on the night of the murders only heightened suspicion: At almost the precise hour the slayings occurred, he was in his Los Angeles apartment aiming a video camcorder at the time and date display of a cable preview channel.
A review of telephone records showed two calls to that apartment from Montgomery pay phones on the night of the murders. One was traced to the Days Inn on Shady Grove Road, where a James Perry had registered that night.
The discovery launched a massive FBI wiretap and surveillance effort that turned up Thomas E. Turner, a Horn cousin who testified, under immunity, that he had introduced Perry and Horn and served as a go-between for their contacts after the murders.
Turner's testimony was buttressed by 709 prosecution exhibits, mostly telephone records, and an answering machine tape that captured Perry and Horn talking, perhaps on the night of the murders.
Krebs, who drives a sedan with vanity plates reading MISUJAN, or "Miss you, Jan," said it was even more important to see Horn convicted than Perry.
"He was just a means to an end," she said. "There are many, many people like Perry out in this world. But to conceive of a scheme like this, to plan the death of your own child, to totally disregard the life of an innocent caregiver like my sister . . .
"He did the unthinkable."