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Death Sentences

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Murder for hire then seemed a reasonable assumption to the detectives. A search of Horn's California apartment--conducted ten days after the slayings by Los Angeles police officers at the request of Maryland investigators--turned up a treasure trove of evidence. The LAPD found a videotape Horn had made that showed him driving along the route from a Rockville, Maryland, Days Inn to the suburban neighborhood where his ex-wife lived. The officers also recovered a hand-drawn map of Millie Horn's street and the houses along it. Detectives believe that Horn shared this information with the hired killer. Feral suggests similar methods of preparation in Hit Man.

Maryland investigators also began checking Horn's phone records. Wittenberg discovered that approximately two hours after the murders, Horn had received a call made from a Montgomery County pay phone just a few miles from Millie Horn's home.

The detectives then began the painstaking task of checking hotel registrations in the area near the pay phone. "We compiled a list and looked at everybody who'd been at the hotels that week," Wittenberg says. Perry immediately stood out. He'd been registered at the Days Inn in Rockville for only six hours--from midnight until 6 a.m. the day of the murders. (Investigators believe the killings occurred about 3 a.m.)

In registering at the hotel, Perry had ignored one of Feral's bits of wisdom. Feral advises using a fake ID and registering under a false name, but Perry signed his own name and presented his own driver's license for identification--and the hotel clerk made a photocopy of the Michigan license.

"Once we came up with Perry's name," Wittenberg says, "things started snowballing."

By November 1993, detectives had gathered enough information to obtain a search warrant of Perry's Detroit home. And though they didn't find a smoking gun, they did find some interesting reading material. Perry had hardback books on evidentiary issues and police investigations, among them Management of Gunshot Wounds and Interpretation of Blood Stain Evidence of Crime Scenes. Officers also found a copy of the Paladin Press catalogue. (Feral suggests that professional assassins bone up on investigative techniques.)

"What happened basically after that," Wittenberg says, "was that we got the magazines and brought them back here and I ended up calling the individual publications to see if he'd purchased anything or subscribed to anything, and lo and behold, Paladin Press called back and said he'd bought two books"--Hit Man and a volume about making silencers.

"When I heard that," Wittenberg says, "I was stunned. We had been inching along with the investigationR>, and getting the news that day was pretty much a highlight. Or one of the highlights. Just knowing he had purchased it and written a personal check for it was a dream come true."

Detectives figured from the title alone that they were on the right track, though they had to order the books for themselves before they knew for sure. "Then I had to sit down and had the pleasure of reading the whole book," Wittenberg says. "It's pretty incredible, the information that's contained in there."

To Millie Horn's family, however, it seemed that the case was moving too slowly. Six months after the murders, Millie's sister, Vivian Rice, filed a civil suit against Lawrence Horn to keep him from claiming Trevor's estate. Citing Maryland's "slayer rule," Rice alleged that Lawrence Horn was responsible for the deaths of Millie and Trevor and therefore was not entitled to the money.

Still the case dragged on. Finally, in July 1994--after investigators had obtained phone records and wiretaps tracking upwards of 140 phone calls between Perry and Lawrence Horn--the two men were arrested and charged with identical counts of triple murder and conspiracy. (Perry did not respond to requests for an interview; Horn's attorney declined to allow his client to speak with Westword.)

At Perry's trial in October 1995, investigators took the stand and testified that they were able to place Perry in Maryland three or more times between the summer of 1992, when he met Lawrence Horn, and March 1993, when the murders were committed. Prosecutors suggested the visits were to scout out Millie Horn's house, an action that Feral recommends in Hit Man.

Detectives also produced evidence showing that prior to the murders, Perry had received $5,000 to $6,000 in cash that had been wired to him from an office near Lawrence Horn's home. That money, Wittenberg says, was probably for expenses only. "What [Horn] promised to pay Perry, we don't know," he says. "I'm sure neither one of them is going to come forward and tell us that." (HiR>t Man suggests that $30,000 is a fair price--more if the intended victim is a law enforcement officer or a judge.)

Thomas Turner, who was granted immunity from prosecution in return for his testimony, said at trial that he'd rented a car for Perry, which Perry then used to drive from Detroit to Maryland to carry out the murders.

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Karen Bowers