Discovery of dog exonerates man from 50-year jail sentence for sex crime

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A man who already began serving a 50-year jail sentence for alleged sexual abuse of a minor was set free after activists recovered a dog that was a key part of the accuser’s testimony against him.

According to the Associated Press, “Joshua Horner, a plumber from the central Oregon town of Redmond, was convicted on April 12, 2017, 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.”

Horner pleaded not guilty to all charges and denied killing Lucy. He was still sentenced to jail even though the verdict was not unanimous.

Six months after the verdict, Horner approached the Oregon Innocence Project – a non-profit that aims to “help wrongfully accused Oregonians clear their names.” The group received assistance from Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel who advised them to search for Lucy because finding her alive would prove the complainant had lied under oath.

The team, however, had difficulty finding the dog who they heard had been given away. The Project’s director Steve Wax told the AP, “They made a couple trips around Deschutes County; he was not there. We heard he was in Seattle. Then we learned he had a place on the Oregon Coast.”

The search finally culminated in a town near Portland, Gearhart, where the team found Lucy, hale, hearty and happy, at a gold course. Lucy, a “very distinctive-looking” dog was “identified by an undisputed chain of custody and her looks,” according to the AP.

Last month, on Aug 3, the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed Horner’s conviction and ordered a new trial. One month later, Deschutes County Judge Michael Adler threw the case out altogether.

D.A. Hummel told the court yesterday that the discovery of Lucy undermined the accuser’s testimony. Further, the accuser failed to attend a meeting regarding her testimony after Lucy was found and fled her home when one of Hummel’s investigators tried to reach out to her.

This case is the first case the Oregon Innocence Project helped overturn. As for Horner, the group says that he and his wife “are ready to pick up the pieces of our lives.”