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Walter J. OGROD

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: July 12, 1988
Date of arrest: 1992
Date of birth: February 3, 1965
Victim profile: Barbara Jean Horn (female, 4)
Method of murder: Blows to the head consistent with a metal rod
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on November 8, 1996
 
 
 
 
 
 

Who says there's an innocent man on death row?
The prolific jailhouse stoolie who helped put him there.

(Part one of two.)

By Tom Lowenstein

At the end of July 1988, there were two unsolved murders of little girls in Northeast Philadelphia. Heather Coffin had been sexually assaulted and murdered in 1987 in Frankford, and Barbara Jean Horn had been murdered on July 12, 1988, somewhere near her house on Rutland Street, near Cottman Avenue. The police had a suspect in the Coffin murder, a 22-year-old named Raymond Sheehan, but had been unable to come up with enough evidence to charge him. Though they had no specific suspect, four witnesses had seen a man carrying the TV box in which Horn's body had been found. One of the witnesses, David Schectman, told police he'd interacted with the man with the box for 11 minutes.

On July 14, and again 11 days later, detectives showed Schectman photo arrays. When they asked him if he recognized anyone as the person he'd seen carrying the box, Schectman picked out Sheehan.

Still, the police were unable to make a case against Sheehan in either murder. There wasn't much evidence against him in the Coffin case, and in the Horn case, Schectman had also identified another neighborhood man as the guy he'd seen with the box.

The Coffin murder would remain unsolved for another 15 years until the summer of 2003, when DNA taken from the crime scene conclusively linked Sheehan to the murder. He was arrested, confessed, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life.

Sheehan has denied any involvement with the Horn murder, which remained unsolved for almost four years.

In April 1992, Walter Ogrod, who had lived across the street from Horn, signed a confession to the murder. Ogrod, by all accounts, looked nothing like the man described by witnesses. (Schectman, the key witness, knew Ogrod by sight if not by name before the murder. He never mentioned him to police.) But Ogrod would sign a confession to the murder. Afterward he claimed that it was coerced by detectives.

Ogrod went on trial in 1993, and 11 of the jurors believed his confession had been forced. The last juror stood up just as the verdict was about to be read to say he didn't agree with it. The judge declared a mistrial on the spot. In a recent interview, John Fahy, the girl's stepfather, said the judge told him that if it had been a bench trial one without a jury the verdict would have been guilty.

Two years later, after the Superior Court had ruled 2-1 for a retrial, Ogrod crossed paths in jail with John Hall, a notorious jailhouse informant. Hall was known as "The Monsignor" because he'd heard more confessions than a priest. After that encounter, Ogrod's fate was essentially sealed. With Hall's help, prosecutors persuaded a jury to convict Ogrod in 1996. He was sentenced to death.

Over the years, some prosecutors came to distrust Hall. So have some reporters, most notably William Bunch, whose 1997 articles in the Daily News raised serious questions about Hall based purely on the sheer number of cases he'd been involved in over the years. But only in one case, the November 1995 Center City jogger murder of Kimberly Ernest, had it ever been proven that Hall lied.

Until now.

Hall made up many stories through the years, using them and the system itself to get out from under a lot of jail time by helping convict many defendants. There are at least four men in Pennsylvania and one in New Jersey doing time for killings based on stories Hall now claims to have made up.

In fall 2003, Hall wrote a series of private letters they were never intended for publication explaining how he helped send Ogrod to death row. These letters, which were provided to City Paper, offer a disturbing, unprecedented glimpse, in Hall's own words, of a master snitch in action, and a disturbing look at how willing district attorneys are to use questionable snitch testimony to win convictions in high-profile cases.

If you lived in the Philadelphia area during the mid-1990s and read the papers, you've probably heard of some of the cases Hall snitched in, or tried to snitch his way into.

The 1991 Parkway shootings, in which one man was killed and two wounded outside a restaurant on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

The 1993 murders of two 20-year-old clerks in a video store in Warminster.

The 1995 conviction of David Dickson for the 1984 murder of Drexel University student Deborah Wilson, a case that gained notoriety when details of Dickson's foot fetish were made public.

And, the 1988 murder of Barbara Jean Horn, whose body was found in a TV box on St. Vincent Street.

Hall had a remarkable ability to come up with exactly the information prosecutors needed at exactly the right time in the most difficult, high-profile cases cases without physical evidence or eyewitnesses; cases that had been unsolved for a while, cases in which shaky prosecution evidence had led to mistrials and the chance that the defendant would walk free.

The pinnacle of Hall's snitching may have come in 1994 and 1995, when, in a little over a year, he snitched out defendants in five murder cases and sent one defendant to death row.

In December 1994, Hall was in the city's Detention Center, facing 25 to 50 years for charges related to a high-speed car chase and assaulting an officer. In the Detention Center, he met Ogrod, who was awaiting retrial for the 1988 sexual assault and murder of 4-year-old Barbara Jean Horn.

The murder, front-page news in Philadelphia, had gone unsolved for four years. At Ogrod's 1993 mistrial, the prosecution had no eyewitnesses or physical evidence. What they had was a confession shaky enough that the first jury had rejected it 11-1. In fact, Ogrod had come within a couple of seconds of walking out of the courtroom a free man.

For the second trial, prosecutors would need something more. Hall needed to get out from under the 25 to 50 years. So he went to work.

Hall was 42 years old in 1994, with a criminal record stretching back 20 years. His unassuming oval face, light-colored hair and intelligent blue eyes made him look more like the lawyer or doctor that other inmates often took him for than the career criminal and snitch that he is.

Hall was a jailhouse genius who knew detectives and prosecutors all over Southeastern Pennsylvania; he wrote complex legal briefs for himself and his friends and long letters about how sweet life would be outside. Out of jail he was a drinker, drug addict and car thief. Every time he got out, he'd steal a car or pass a bad prescription and get put away again within a matter of days. Sometimes, he only lasted a matter of hours.

Then he'd write long letters about how depressed he was to be back in and how he was hoarding pills to kill himself in case his current scheme to get out didn't work.

But Hall had a snitching system, and it usually got him out.

He'd approach an inmate, make friends with him and get him to open up about his case by offering legal advice. Then he'd contact someone in the outside world to do some field research maybe a detective would give him information from the investigation, or an associate would go to the library to gather newspaper clippings about the case or to the house of a victim to talk to the family, or would even create some piece of evidence.

Hall would use the information from the inmate combined with the field research to create details that it seemed only the killer could know, details he knew detectives and prosecutors would want, and jurors would believe. When he had a story that sounded authentic, he'd have his lawyer present it to prosecutors in exchange for consideration in his current case, a letter of support to another district attorney or an appearance by a detective on his behalf before a sentencing judge.

In 1990, David Keightly, then an assistant district attorney in Montgomery County, wrote that Hall had "cooperated fully with the authorities in a number of very important murder prosecutions" and had been a particularly "fine witness" in the prosecution of Ernest Priovolos, who was eventually convicted of the 1986 murder of Cheryl Succa in Lower Moreland Township a death that had been classified an accident until Hall came forward. Keightly, according to documents obtained by City Paper, was "very familiar" with Hall's "extensive criminal record, and the circumstances surrounding his many convictions" and had "agreed with Mr. Hall that, in exchange for his cooperation and testimony, I would notify the authorities of his cooperation."

A couple of weeks later he sent Hall a personal note.

"[You are] a man of astonishing brilliance, of keen intellect, and of tragic sickness," Keightly wrote. "Thanks again, John."

Keightly's support of Hall continued years later when, as a Montgomery County district judge, he wrote a letter to Hall's "current sentencing judge" urging him to consider Hall's earlier cooperation when deciding Hall's sentence.

In 1991, C. Theodore Fritsch, then chief deputy district attorney of Bucks County, wrote to Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham, explaining that Hall had come forward "unexpectedly" a few days before the trial of Michael Dirago for the murder of Yvonne Davi, whose body had been found near the Delaware River in Bucks County. Hall's "unsolicited cooperation," wrote

Fritsch, who is now a Buck County Common Pleas Court judge, had changed the case from one with a "rather slim" chance of conviction to a "strong one from the prosecution standpoint." Hall became a "key witness for the prosecution" and Dirago was convicted.

Hall's cooperation in the Davi case also prompted Howard Barman, then deputy attorney general of New Jersey (where Dirago was eventually convicted because Hall's testimony placed the murder on the New Jersey side of the bridge on which, he claimed, the victim had been killed), to write that Hall was "a remarkable person" who, but for an alcohol problem, "would probably be a significant member of society."

Bristol Township Police Sgt. Thomas Mills a police officer who had originally worked the case also wrote two letters of support for Hall, one to a judge in Bucks County in 1993 and one (undated) to Abraham, urging leniency in Hall's open cases. Both Fritsch and Barman would write letters of support again in the fall of 1994.

Details, details: In the Priovolos case, Hall made up a story about a stolen purse; in the Dirago case, a riveting account of the murder on the bridge, of the victim gurgling as she died.

Some prosecutors, as reported in the Daily News, didn't believe Hall. A Philadelphia assistant DA whom Hall approached in 1991 with information that the defendant in the Parkway shootings, who was planning an insanity defense, was actually sane, found Hall to be "patently incredible."

In the case involving the 1993 video-store murders, prosecutors decided that Hall's fabricated story wasn't credible either. In early 1994, Hall tried to convince authorities that he knew who was responsible for two 1981 mob-related murders, but they believed his information was a fabrication, taken mainly from newspaper accounts.

Back in jail in June 1994 after leading police on a high-speed chase in a stolen car, Hall was supremely confident of his ability to cut a deal and get out.

"Nothing can stop him," he wrote of himself in the third person, as he often did. "Remember his business deals for Dave Keightly? That was a tough one, but [he] came through. He does come through. He has never failed." His plan involved a story for Joseph Casey, an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, involving a series of mob-related crimes, including several murders, that went back 15 years.

To sell that story to the authorities, Hall had a new lawyer, Marc Frumer, a young guy who had recently left the Philadelphia DA's office and gone into private practice. Hall wrote to an associate that he trusted Frumer to handle the "salesman and public relations" responsibilities and to not "let on what [Hall] is up to." In another letter, Hall wrote that, "At times, [Frumer] admits that I am teaching him things. Not about law, but about procedures outside the system."

On Aug. 2, 1994, Hall signed a proffer of cooperation with Casey to provide the mob information to prosecutors. Hall wrote to an associate that he and Frumer were convinced that the case would make Frumer important in legal circles, that his fees would skyrocket, and that "the tabloids will follow with wallets" of which Frumer would get a percentage. In his letters, Hall writes that Frumer told him that "because these are Mafia matters, you should look the part. So I'll get you a double-breasted suit. Like John Gotti wears." (Frumer referred all questions for comment on this story to the District Attorney's office.)

Later in August, Hall was transferred from the city Detention Center to Bucks County. While there he took care of a neat little piece of business: getting an inmate to sign a 23-page affidavit confessing to sexually assaulting a young girl. Hall read the inmate his Miranda rights and even had him sign a Miranda waiver something Hall only needed to do if he were working for law enforcement. Did Hall's Aug. 2 agreement with Casey mean he was, technically, working for law enforcement? Or was Hall just being a jailhouse lawyer, overplaying his own importance? The answer to this question has important implications for what happened in the Ogrod case.

By the end of September, Hall's team was working well. He wrote to his research associate, "I do require those clippings for conclusion. I know you will do your work, as always," and added, "with Marc, we get gifts, swift and sure."

In December, Hall was transferred back to the Detention Center to face the 25 to 50 years, a charge stemming from the high-speed chase. He knew that with his record he'd need another big case, maybe even a few big cases, to get sprung free.

Hall approached Walter Ogrod, who he called "a big goofy guy who gave the appearance of being some kind of mental deficient." Frumer had also represented Ogrod's brother Frumer's father had also done some legal work for the Ogrods a few years earlier and Hall told Ogrod that Frumer had asked him to check up on him.

Hall would later tell a private investigator working for Ogrod's defense that he first thought of informing on Ogrod when Casey, the Philadelphia assistant DA with whom Hall had signed his proffer of cooperation in August and who had prosecuted and very nearly lost the first Ogrod trial, asked him about the inmates he had contact with at the Detention Center.

Both Hall and the assistant DA who would prosecute Ogrod at his second trial deny that Hall was moved to the Detention Center in December specifically to target Ogrod. But whatever the particulars of how and why Hall ended up talking to Ogrod, there he was, needing a deal to get out of prison. During the time Hall and Ogrod were housed in the same block at the Detention Center, an appeal of Ogrod's was denied, 2-1, by the Pennsylvania Superior Court. It was around then that Ogrod began talking to Hall about his case.

"Ogrod discussed his legal strategies with me often and in detail," Hall wrote later. "I had enough to proceed against him but I needed more. Ogrod didn't know about particulars, and [I am] a stickler for details."

Hall had his associate outside the prison mail him newspaper articles about the case, but they were too general, so Hall went back to Ogrod to "probe deeper for details and got mostly everything I needed from him. Then I kept notes. Eventually I assembled those notes into a composite summary and then an elongated account and history of the events leading up to the incident, the incident itself, and the aftermath."

Hall's detailed, sickening version of the Horn murder had, he explained years later in a letter, "the District Attorney salivating. They had previously proceeded on a simple statement by Ogrod of admission that he killed the little 4-year-old girl. My account was replete with details and chronology. [Ogrod] would burn on my recounting of the facts."

On Jan. 6, 1995, Hall sat down with two detectives he knew from previous snitchings and laid out a story he claimed Ogrod had told him. It contradicted what Ogrod had allegedly told police in 1992 and was, given the testimony of the witnesses in the case, impossible.

But it helped put Ogrod on death row and Hall back on the street for a while.

Rutland Street in Northeast Philadelphia is one way and narrow, lined with brick-fronted rowhouses so small and closely packed that neighbors can hear each other through the walls. The cars parked along the right side of the street leave just more than enough room for motorists driving north to pass by.

In July 1988, Barbara Jean Horn and her parents lived at 7245 Rutland St. The little girl's best friend in the neighborhood, a 6-year-old named Charlie, lived with his parents and sister across the street at 7244, Walter Ogrod's house.

Charlie's parents, Charles "Sarge" and Linda Green, were drinkers and partiers. Sarge, who died in 1993, had been in the Marines in Vietnam and had a criminal record of assault and drug charges dating back to the early '80s. He stood 6-feet tall, maybe 300 pounds, with a ponytail and tattoos covering his arms. A motorcycle-gang member, he was living on disability payments, making a few extra dollars as a tattoo artist working out of the basement of the house and, said some neighbors, dealing drugs.

Ogrod was 23 in 1988 and had lived in the house, which had been owned by one of his aunts since his father's 1984 death, since he was 10. He often struck people as being slow or somehow weird. A psychiatrist who treated him in the late 1970s and early 1980s reported that he showed some evidence what would later be termed attention deficit disorder, and that he appeared to be "ego-defective" basically, lacking a normally developed sense of self.

Later, the psychiatrist would explain to Ogrod's defense lawyer that there was "no adequate label to describe" Ogrod and that he was not retarded, but did have a low IQ. In 1982, at age 17, Ogrod tried to join the Army Reserve, but after a couple of weeks of basic training he was determined to be "unfit for enlistment" based on a pre-existing condition. Army doctors diagnosed him with "Mixed Personality Disorder manifested by extreme dependency, immaturity intrinsic belief that he is different than other people, poor history of socialization, poor ability to handle stress" and noted that his "impairment for further military duty" was "marked" while his impairment for "social and industrial adaptability" was "moderate."

Ogrod's younger brother, Greg, moved in with him for a while in 1985. Greg, who's serving up to 25 years for aggravated assault, says he dealt drugs and threw parties that caused a lot of noise complaints and brought the police to the house. Walter wasn't into drugs, so while the parties raged, he was usually upstairs trying to get some sleep. In July 1986 a dispute between Greg Ogrod and Richie Hackett, a friend of Walter's who had moved into the house and who, for many reasons perhaps the most minor of which was that he didn't pay rent Greg thought was taking advantage of his brother, turned lethal.

Court records indicate that Hackett hired three guys to break into the house and kill Greg. The attack took place on the night of July 31. Greg survived, badly injured. Maureen Dunne, his 16-year-old girlfriend and the daughter of a Philadelphia detective, was killed. (Hackett and one accomplice, who'd helped with the planning, would be convicted of murder and sentenced to death the same week as the Horn murder; two accomplices got life in prison.)

Greg Ogrod moved out after Dunne's murder, so Walter took in a series of housemates. The Greens, friends of a friend, moved in during the spring of 1987, agreeing to pay $50 a week in rent, which they paid for about a month. The ongoing rent dispute was one reason their relationship with Walter Ogrod was perpetually strained. Often, it turned openly hostile.

In July 1988, everyone in the neighborhood knew the house at 7244 Rutland was a troubled place parties, drug dealing and murder had given way to the Greens' biker parties.

The house was crowded. The Green family, a friend of Sarge's named Tom and Walter Ogrod lived there, not to mention Tom's Great Dane and Ogrod's Doberman; occasionally other people stayed for various lengths of time. According to neighbors and tenants from that time, the house were also filthy. There was a mattress on the dining-room floor. Dirt and dog hair was everywhere. In the upstairs bathroom, the sink had broken off the wall and was resting on the floor.

On the afternoon of July 12, 1988, four people on St. Vincent Street, about a block south and half a block west of Ogrod's house, saw a man alternately carrying and dragging a box for a television. The man dragged the box by a garbage bag that was sticking out of it, pausing sometimes to catch his breath.

According to his interview with police that night, David Schectman was leaning against the tailgate of his station wagon, reading the paper and waiting for his kids to get home from day camp so he could take his wife to a doctor's appointment. When the guy with the box approached, Schectman asked what was in the box.

"Oh, some old junk," the guy said.

Schectman told him trash day was Tuesday.

"Oh, I thought it was Wednesday on this street," the guy said.

Then the guy picked up the box and started up the steps to Schectman's back yard.

Schectman told police he thought the guy was from the corner church, and he told him, "that doesn't go through."

Moments later, the guy tried to go behind Schectman's house on the other side, but Schectman said the man turned back when he saw him and a newspaper delivery kid watching.

Schectman told police he last saw the man at 5:23 p.m., when his kids finally got home. Three minutes later, as he left for the doctor's, he saw the box on the curb. He told detectives that he interacted with the guy with the box for a total of 11 minutes.

Records show that at 5:30 p.m., in 1409 St. Vincent, a couple of houses west of Schectman's house, Stan Zablocky had just started upstairs to take his evening bath when his wife, looking out the front door, said that someone had left a box in front of the house.

"Oh, I'd better go out and see what it is before I take my bath," Zablocky said.

A minute later, he yelled, "There's a baby in the box."

His daughter called 911 while he stood by his gruesome discovery, making sure no one disturbed it.

The baby Zablocky saw was Horn in a fetal position on her right side. Her hair was wet. She had been beaten to death.

The four witnesses Schectman, his wife, the delivery boy and a car salesman on the corner of Castor and St. Vincent all described the guy with the box as being in his late 20s or early 30s, 5-foot, 6-inches to 5-foot 9-inches tall, about 160 to 180 pounds. He had a tan and close-cut, dark-blonde or brown hair. A police sketch was distributed throughout the neighborhood. Tips poured in to the police.

A search warrant executed on the house from which the TV box had been taken, 7208 Rutland, turned up handcuffs, a videotape of child pornography and a billy club, a possible match with the murder weapon.

Schectman would positively identify two men Raymond Sheehan in a photo ID and another man in person as the man he'd seen carrying the box.

In 1990, Assistant DA Casey, who has declined to comment for this article, would preside over a grand jury investigation of one of the residents of 7208 Rutland and one of the men Schectman had identified, but no indictments were forthcoming.

Walter Ogrod was a young-looking 23, 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, with black hair. He looked nothing like the police sketch or the descriptions given to police and was never a suspect up to that point. He was interviewed by police once, briefly, standing in his Rutland Street doorway.

In early 1992, the unsolved Horn murder was turned over to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), a division of the Philadelphia Police Homicide division set up to investigate cases that had either gone cold or required too much manpower for the regular homicide detectives to deal with.

The case was assigned to two experienced detectives, Martin Devlin and Paul Worrell. Devlin was known as one of the smartest detectives on the force; short and cocky, he sported a handlebar mustache, colorful, Hawaiian-style shirts, and was known to refer to himself as "The Golden Marty." Worrell was tall, soft-spoken, more likely to wear a gray suit than anything flashy.

After reviewing the case file, Devlin and Worrell talked to Horn's parents, John and Sharon Fahy. John says the detectives took him in one room and Devlin accused him of the murder. Down the hall, the couple says, they pressured Sharon to implicate her husband. A few days later the detectives explained to the Fahys that they'd needed to see what John's reaction to that kind of pressure would be, and that they'd known when he left the interview room that night that he hadn't been involved in the murder.

The Fahys insisted that there was no way Barbara Jean would've walked off with a stranger without screaming and that the murder had to have happened across the street, inside 7244 Rutland.

On March 30, 1992, Devlin and Worrell went to see the Greens, who were living in Coatesville. (Ogrod and the Greens had been evicted from the house on Rutland in October 1989 by Ogrod's aunt.) They talked to Sarge, who said he'd been home all day on July 12, 1988 (as had his wife, Linda), and noted that he didn't match the police sketch or the given descriptions of the man carrying the box. Green's daughter told the detectives she'd gotten home from the neighborhood swimming pool at around 2 p.m. on the day of the murder and had seen Ogrod leave the house from about 2:30 until 3 p.m. At the time, there was an outstanding warrant for Sarge's arrest in November 1988, he had beaten Ogrod badly, a fight had spilled out onto the street and been broken up by John Fahy. Sarge had subsequently been convicted of simple assault but had skipped his sentencing but he was inexplicably not taken into custody at the time of the interview.

On April 1, Devlin and Worrell went to Ogrod's apartment in Glenside, a few minutes' drive from Rutland Street. Ogrod wasn't home, so the detectives left instructions for him to call the following Sunday, April 5, after noontime to set up a time to talk about the case.

On Saturday night and Sunday morning Ogrod put in an all-night shift at his job, driving a truck, delivering bread to fast-food restaurants in the Philadelphia area. By Sunday afternoon, when he went in to talk to Devlin and Worrell, he hadn't slept in 30 hours.

Virtually everything that happened in the Police Administration Building on that Sunday is a matter of dispute.

According to the detectives, Ogrod agreed to come in for an interview at 6 p.m. but inexplicably showed up at 3:45 and was signed into the Homicide division by Worrell. Devlin was out running errands, and department procedure required both detectives to be present for the interview, so Ogrod waited until about 5:30 p.m., when Devlin returned.

The detectives insist they didn't view Ogrod as a suspect, only an informational witness, and both would testify that Ogrod seemed normal, not tired. Devlin would claim he didn't notice Ogrod's speech impediment. The interview started at about 6 p.m., with the two detectives talking to Ogrod informally. Just before 6:30 Devlin started writing down the questions asked and Ogrod's responses.

According to the disputed confession, Ogrod told the detectives Horn had come to his house sometime between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., looking for her friend Charlie and that, after letting her in, he'd gone upstairs.

Until that moment, the detectives had never heard that Horn had been in any of the houses on Rutland Street that day. They asked Ogrod if he'd seen the little girl talk to Linda Green. He said he didn't know; the detectives found this hard to believe. If Green had been in the dining room, as Ogrod had said, he would've been able to see her from the front door when he let Horn in.

Devlin sensed that Ogrod was getting nervous. The detective confronted him. Ogrod began crying convulsively. It was 6:50 p.m.

Worrell took Ogrod to the bathroom and got him a cup of coffee. According to the detectives' testimony and the disputed confession, when the interview continued at 7:10 p.m., Ogrod said he had to tell them something he'd never told anyone before.

The detectives read Ogrod his rights and had him sign a seven-point waiver of his rights. He then confessed to the murder of Barbara Jean Horn. He said he took the little girl to the basement and asked her if she wanted to 'play doctor.' She did, so he took off her clothes and tried to force her to perform oral sex on him. She started screaming and he hit her several times with the pull-down bar from his weight set. He stashed her clothes, washed her body in the laundry sink and wrapped her in a garbage bag. He took her out the back door and entered his garage, where he left her while he went back into the alley behind his house and found the empty TV box. He put Horn in the box and was going to put her in a Dumpster just on the other side of a fence that bordered the alley, but there were people there so he walked to the end of the alley and made a right, crossed busy Castor Avenue, and turned left, heading south. After a few steps he noticed how many people were around so he turned back, made a left on St. Vincent, put the box down, and alternately dragged and carried it to where he left it on the curb. Then he went home. He didn't talk to anyone.

The detectives asked Ogrod if he'd ejaculated when he was assaulting Horn; he said he couldn't remember.

They asked if he knew what 'ejaculate' meant. He did.

Where had he stashed her clothes? He couldn't remember. Maybe in a crawlspace above the garage or in an air vent in the basement. He didn't remember if he'd ever removed them from there.

When Ogrod started saying he didn't remember to everything they asked, they figured the interview was over. At that point, they showed him a couple of pictures of the TV box, of Horn's body, just to make sure they were all talking about the same little girl.

At trial, Worrell would describe the way Ogrod broke down and confessed as being like 'TV stuff.' He said, 'You just don't bring in a guy to talk about the time of day and he is giving you this four-year-old case.'

Ogrod read the statement Devlin had written out and signed every page. It was faxed to the charging DA, a junior prosecutor working an all-night shift whose job was to sign off on charges, at 12:04 a.m. just within the six-hour limit imposed by Pennsylvania law on police interrogations.

At 1:30 or 2 a.m., Assistant DA Joseph Casey arrived to personally check everything over. Devlin and Worrell got a search warrant for 7244 Rutland and went to look for Horn's clothes; they didn't find them.

Ogrod was taken downstairs and booked at 7 a.m. on Mon., April 6, 1992.

Ogrod's version of his conversation with the detectives starts hours earlier, ends hours later and shares with the detectives' accounts only a few names of streets and people and a few key phrases things they contend he told them in the process of confessing and that he says they twisted.

At the first trial and in recent interviews, Ogrod says he arrived at the Roundhouse that Sunday at about 1:30 p.m., and Worrell told him not to worry about signing in, that he'd only be there a short time. Ogrod said he'd always signed in when he'd come down, a number of times, to talk about the Maureen Dunne case. Worrell remembered the case.

Upstairs, in Homicide, Ogrod waited a couple of hours. He tried to leave twice, telling the detectives he was tired and would come back another time. The detectives finally took him into the interview room, wrote down his basic information and asked him some general questions about the case. After a half-hour, they said they were done and Ogrod got up to leave.

Ogrod says that Devlin stopped him, saying in a helpful tone that they thought he might have killed the little girl and was blocking the memory.

The detectives showed Ogrod pictures of the TV box and Horn. They told him neighbors had seen him let Horn in the house that day, that he'd wanted to have fun with her and had killed her and didn't remember it.

Again, they showed him pictures of the dead girl. No, Ogrod told them, he hadn't let her in the house.

They told him he seemed a little off, that he was sick and needed help, asked if he'd ever seen a psychiatrist. Ogrod said he never would've hurt a little girl, that if he had he would've killed himself.

According to Ogrod, who gave hours of interviews for this story, when he told them he wanted to make a phone call they said they'd put him in the holding cell and 'tell all the niggers' what he'd done.

Over the next few hours they kept at him with the photos of Horn's body and brought him coffee at least half a dozen times. They told him he might as well eat because they were going to be there all night and brought him a cheesesteak, prodded him awake a couple of times. They showed him a picture of the Dunne crime scene that had his weight set in it.

After several hours of pressure eight, 10, maybe more; he doesn't know because he wasn't near a window and, exhausted, with no view of the outside, quickly lost his sense of what time it was and being told time and again that he was sick, that he'd killed her and was blocking it from his memory, Ogrod says he began to believe that he had done it.

He started crying.

How could I do that, he asked himself, over and over.

The detectives drew up a map and told him to show them his route with the box. 'Picture in your mind you're going this way,' they'd say. When he got something wrong they'd say, 'No, a witness saw you here, start over.'

The interview lasted into the next morning. Toward the end, Ogrod was handcuffed to his chair. They read the confession to him, told him to sign every page and gave him the rights-waiver sheet. Ogrod told them he'd wanted a lawyer all along and they said the statement was done, he should go ahead and sign the rights waiver and then he'd get his phone call. He signed. As he was taken downstairs to be booked he could see that it was beginning to get light outside.

Ogrod's 1993 trial for the Horn murder revolved primarily around the disputed confession because there was no physical evidence to implicate him. Fingerprints found on the TV box and the trash bag did not match his. No clothing or blood was recovered from the basement of his house which had never been searched until four years after the murder. And, though one expert testified that he had isolated a single sperm head in Horn's saliva, other prosecution medical experts testified that there was no sperm head, only debris on a slide.

There was no other evidence of a sexual assault of any kind. Casey, the assistant DA, put the Green children on the stand to testify that Ogrod had made inappropriate comments to them on a couple of occasions. None of these comments, however, had been mentioned to police at the time of the murder or at the time of Sarge Green's 1988 arrest for assaulting Ogrod.

Linda Green had told police on the day after Ogrod's alleged confession that she had been wholly unaware of Ogrod engaging in any such behavior until her daughter mentioned it to her that day.

Casey was hard-pressed to present any other supporting evidence for the detectives' version of the confession.

Every fact in the confession that is supported by evidence for example, that Barbara Jean was killed by blunt trauma to the head, that she was found with wet hair in a TV box had been known to the detectives before they set foot in the interrogation room with Ogrod. While it is possible that physical evidence in the case was lost in the four-year lag between the murder and Ogrod's arrest, it is striking that the things he supposedly told police that only the killer could know (the sexual assault, the pull-down bar, the washing of the body) are either unsupported by any other evidence and offer possible but unproven explanations for something the detectives already knew.

Instead, there is no evidence of sexual assault other than the one disputed sperm cell, which the prosecution contended didn't exist. Horn was killed by blunt trauma, but the alleged weapon, the pull-down bar, was never recovered. Her hair was wet when she was found, a fact any alleged confession needed to address, but a thorough examination of the sink in which Ogrod supposedly washed her body which included taking apart the drain to test for traces of blood turned up nothing.

Although at the time of the Ogrod interview Worrell and Devlin had been working on the Horn case for a couple of months in the same office as a detective who had worked the Maureen Dunne homicide and the Dunne case, being the murder of a cop's daughter, was well-known to all the detectives in the SIU Worrell testified that only after Ogrod was booked did he and his partner find out there was a photograph of Ogrod's basement that showed the Dunne crime scene and Ogrod's weight set. Because they hadn't known there was a weight set in the basement until they saw that picture they could not, therefore, have planted the idea of the pull-down bar as murder weapon in Ogrod's statement.

Ogrod testified, going through the alleged confession line by line to explain how exhausted he'd been during his interview with the detectives, how they'd twisted what he said when they wrote down his statement, how they had pressured him into confessing to a crime he hadn't committed.

On cross-examination, Casey would jump on an aspect of Ogrod's testimony that, he said, was proof Ogrod knew something only the killer could know. Ogrod testified that he'd read in a local paper, the Northeast Times -- one of several news sources he'd read or seen about the case that the guy carrying the TV box had tried to put it in a Dumpster. Casey then called the reporter who had covered Horn's murder for the Northeast Times to testify that she'd never mentioned the Dumpster in any of her stories.

He didn't call any of the witnesses who saw the man carrying the box, and when Ogrod's lawyer did, Casey worked to discredit their original statements to police because those descriptions did not match Ogrod.

The trial lasted eight days. After eight hours of deliberation, the jury indicated that they were deadlocked. The judge told them to try again.

The next day the jury informed the judge that they'd reached a unanimous verdict and assembled in the courtroom. The crier asked if all 12 of them had agreed to a verdict and the foreman said they had.

As the crier began to read the verdict, juror No. 2 blurted out, 'No.'

'Wait a minute,' someone in the crowd yelled.

'I don't agree with the verdict,' the juror said.

The judge immediately declared a mistrial.

Horn's father vaulted the low railing between the gallery and the defense table, knocked a bailiff sprawling, and punched Ogrod. He was wrestled down by more bailiffs. Ogrod was taken out of the room.

The jury had voted 11-1 for acquittal.

The holdout juror, a replacement, later told a reporter that the testimony about the newspaper articles had convinced him of Ogrod's guilt. The juror he had replaced told reporters she would've voted 'not guilty.' The jury foreman, expressing a doubt many of Ogrod's supporters have as to whether he was capable of giving the kind of fluent, well-spoken confession that Devlin wrote down, would tell reporters, 'There's no way that man gave that confession.'

Philadelphia City Paper - CityPaper.net

 

 

 
 
 
 
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