By Steve Guntli
The jury trial for a Birch Bay woman accused of helping her boyfriend with an attempted murder in Ferndale began last week in Whatcom County.
A jury convened to hear opening statements in the case against Lesley Alexandra Villatoro. Authorities arrested Villatoro, 29, last May for allegedly assisting her boyfriend, Chad Horne, 34, with a crime. She is charged with complicity in six felonies: attempted first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, theft of a motor vehicle and three counts of first-degree kidnapping. Her trial began on January 29.
County prosecutor Dave MacEachran outlined the details of the case. On May 2, 2014, Horne forced his way into the home of a 39-year-old mother of two at gunpoint. He told the woman he just wanted to take her car, a black 2008 Chevy Tahoe. He made her start the car while he stayed in the house with her children, ages 1 and 5.
When she returned, Horne bound her hands with zip ties and slit her throat with a 7-inch blade. He also fired a shot from his .45-caliber handgun, but missed and ran out to the vehicle. The woman was able to run to a neighbor, who called 911. Paramedics arrived and were able to stem the bleeding, and the woman survived the attack.
Minutes after the attack, dispatchers received a call about a shooting at Ferndale High School. The call turned out to be a ruse meant to occupy police while Horne made his escape. Minutes later, police received another fake shooting call, this one at The Home Depot in Bellingham, where Horne worked.
Blaine Police Chief Mike Haslip spotted the stolen Tahoe in the alley behind a burger restaurant in Ferndale. He gave chase and stopped the vehicle on Smith Road by crashing his police vehicle into the Tahoe. Horne was ordered to get out of the car, but he shot himself in the head. Doctors pronounced him dead at PeaceHealth St. Joseph hospital.
Villatoro, who lived with Horne in his sister’s garage in Birch Bay, is accused of driving Horne to the scene of the crime and purchasing bleach and gasoline to destroy evidence.
According to her attorney, Thomas Fryer, Villatoro thought she was dropping him off at a friend’s house. She returned to Birch Bay afterwards to wait for Horne so they could celebrate his birthday. When he didn’t arrive, she assumed he had gotten drunk and forgotten about their plans. According to court records, Villatoro learned of Horne’s death after reading an article in the Bellingham Herald on her phone.
MacEachran has said Villatoro was a knowing accomplice and that he believes it was a targeted hit and not a random crime. The motives behind the hit are still to be determined.
The trial reconvened on February 2, under the supervision of Judge Charles Snyder.