Wed, Sep 12, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Dog saves Oregon man from 50 years in jail for assault

AP, SALEM, Oregon

A black Lab named Lucy rests at McMenamins Gearhart Golf Links in Gearhart, Oregon, on July 18.

Photo: AP

The discovery of a black Labrador named Lucy led to the unraveling on Monday of a criminal case against an Oregon man who had begun serving a 50-year prison sentence.

Joshua Horner, a plumber from Redmond, Oregon, was convicted on April 12 last year of sexual abuse of a minor.

In the trial, the complainant testified Horner had threatened to shoot her animals if she went to the police about the alleged molestation, and said she saw him shoot her dog, killing it, to make his point.

Six months after a jury convicted Horner in a verdict that was not unanimous, he asked the Oregon Innocence Project for help.

When the group raised concerns in April about the case with Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel, he agreed to work with them.

Horner had insisted he never shot the dog. Finding the dog would show the complainant had lied under oath. But if it was alive, where was it?

An Oregon Innocence Project volunteer and an official from Hummel’s office searched for it. The black Lab had reportedly been given away.

“They made a couple trips around Deschutes County; he was not there,” said Steve Wax, legal director of the Oregon Innocence Project. “We heard he was in Seattle. Then we learned he had a place on the Oregon Coast.”

It was there, in the town of Gearhart, northwest of Portland, that the pair finally found Lucy after her owners agreed to rendezvous at a golf course.

“She was drinking a bowl of water and sitting in shade underneath a porch. We played with her. Petted her. It was wonderful,” said Lisa Christon, the Oregon Innocence Project volunteer.

Lucy was identified by an undisputed chain of custody and her looks.

“She’s a very distinctive-looking black Lab; not purebred. She’s got this adorable shaped head and really long ears,” Christon said.

That key evidence showed the complainant had not been truthful when testifying, Hummel said.

He told the court on Monday he was not certain that Horner did not sexually abuse the complainant, but that he was now not convinced he did.

Deschutes County Judge Michael Adler dismissed the case.

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