Death Sentences

Page 2 of 9

--Excerpt from Hit Man

The name Lawrence T. Horn once meant something in Detroit: music, money and success. Born to a middle-class family in the Motor City, he really hit his stride after his discharge from the Navy, where he'd served as a shipboard disc jockey known as "L.T., the Man With the Plan." Once back in Detroit, Lawrence Horn hooked up with Berry Gordy, and together they created "the Motown Sound." A gifted recording engineer, Horn mixed recordings for the Supremes, Smokey Robinson and the Temptations, among others. Motown's success, and his own, earned Horn a Porsche, nice clothes and ready cash.

But according to testimony that would later come out at trial, his personal life was not nearly as smooth as his professional one. His short-lived first marriage to a Motown receptionist ended in divorce in 1966. He married a second time in 1973, this time to American Airlines flight attendant Millie Maree. The couple bought a home in California (Motown had relocated to Los Angeles from Detroit), and their first child, Tiffani, was born in 1974.

By the end of the decade, Horn's second marriage was failing. Millie moved with their daughter to the Washington, D.C., area, leaving Lawrence on the West Coast. Despite the physical and emotional gulf that lay between them, Millie and Lawrence seemed unable to let go completely--Millie became pregnant, and on August 14, 1984, after going into labor eleven weeks early, she gave birth to twins. She named the infants Trevor and Tamielle.

Tiffani Horn would testify years later that the babies' birth signaled the end of her parents' marriage, though Lawrence and Millie didn't divorce until 1987.

Like many premature infants, the twins' health was fragile. Tamielle was not released from the hospital until a month after her birth. Her brother was even more ill--he had underdeveloped lungs and suffered from respiratory problems. Trevor was forced to remain in the hospital for three months, and recurring bouts of illness often landed him back there during the year that followed.

Trevor was receiving treatment at Children's Hospital National Medical Center in Washington in September 1985, when his respirator tube was accidently dislodged, cutting off his supply of oxygen for as long as an hour. The accident left him with severe brain damage. He was paralyzed, retarded, could not talk, could barely see, and required round-the-clock care. When Trevor finally left the hospital, family members said, Millie believed she was bringing her son home to die.

(Trevor would surprise his family and his doctors by not only surviving but improving. By the time of his death he could breathe on his own, though he received an enriched supply of oxygen through a tube fastened near his tracheotomy. He also could say a few words and was going to school.)

The Horns, devastated by their son's problems, filed a medical malpractice suit against Children's Hospital. They settled out of court in 1990 for an estimated $2 million. Trevor was to receive $1.1 million in the year 2003 (when he would turn eighteen), as well as $5,000 a month to help pay medical expenses. The money was placed in a trust in Trevor's name. Under Maryland law, if Trevor died and was survived by only one parent, the survivor stood to inherit the entire amount, less estate taxes.

In addition to Trevor's trust, Millie Horn received a reported quarter-million-dollar settlement for herself. Soon afterward, she bought a $350,000 home for herself and the children in the Washington suburb of Silver Spring, a few houses away from her sister, Vivian Rice.

Lawrence Horn was in dire need of the $125,000 he got in the settlement. He'd been laid off from Motown and was trying to eke out a living as a consultant and freelance music engineer. And he was getting further and further behind in his $650-per-month child-support payments.

By 1992, Lawrence had used up all the money from the settlement and was forced to go to his mother, Pauline, for cash. Pauline Horn testified at Perry's trial that her son borrowed a total of $65,000 in 1992 and 1993 to help pay legal bills he'd accrued in a custody fight with Millie. By the time of the murders, prosecutors say, Lawrence was $16,000 in arrears on his child-support payments.

It was during that low point, in the spring or summer of 1992, that Lawrence traveled back to Detroit, site of his old glory days. He touched base with old friends and became reacquainted with relatives. Horn's first cousin, Thomas Turner, later testified that he hadn't seen Lawrence for twenty years when he happened to stop by Turner's Detroit home.

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Karen Bowers