By Steve Guntli
After more than a week of deliberation, a Whatcom County jury has found Lesley Villatoro guilty of helping her boyfriend in an attempt to murder a Ferndale woman.
Villatoro, 29, was found guilty on February 20 for complicity in six felonies: attempted murder in the first degree, three charges of kidnapping in the first degree, burglary in the first degree and theft of a motor vehicle.
In May 2014, Villatoro drove her boyfriend, Chad Horne, 34, to a home located at Patriot Place in Ferndale. Horne forced his way at gunpoint into the 39-year-old mother of three’s home. Horne then bound her hands with zip ties, slit her throat with a 7-inch blade and fired a shot from a .45 caliber pistol at her. The bullet missed, and Horne fled the scene in the woman’s Chevy SUV.
The victim managed to get to her neighbor who called 911, and paramedics were able to save the woman’s life.
During the subsequent manhunt, Blaine police chief Mike Haslip spotted the suspect vehicle and rammed it with his police cruiser, forcing it off the road. Haslip called for backup but Horne shot and killed himself before officers could take him into custody.
According to Villatoro’s attorney Thomas Freyer, after she dropped him off at the crime scene, Horne instructed Villatoro to take the couple’s twin babies to a nearby park and wait for 30 minutes. Villatoro claimed she thought Horne was meeting up with a coworker from Home Depot to smoke pot and said the family was planning to go to Olive Garden to celebrate Horne’s birthday.
Villatoro also claimed she left the park early because her babies were getting fussy. She returned to Birch Bay, where she and Horne were staying with Horne’s sister.
Over the course of the two-week trial, county prosecutor David McEachran argued that not only did Villatoro know what Horne was intending to do, she also provided him with a “murder kit” and was going to help him cover up the crime.
The most damning evidence, according to McEachran, came from a trip to Wal-Mart Villatoro made in late April in which she purchased a duffel bag and a gas can. The duffel bag was found in the Tahoe next to Horne’s body, containing a hunting knife and zip ties. McEachran said the couple planned to get away by dousing the Tahoe in gasoline and burning it to destroy evidence.
Police also found a blue backpack, a change of men’s clothes, a police scanner and the gas can in Villatoro’s Honda Civic.
Freyer argued that Villatoro was ignorant of Horne’s intentions and that the couple was planning to move back to Arizona in June. Freyer said Villatoro believed the gas can was for spare fuel for the trip. Security footage from a gas station showed Horne filling up the gas canister, but Villatoro was not with him at the time.
McEachran believes the crime to have been a paid murder-for-hire. Police have issued more than 70 search warrants for the man they believe contracted the killings. So far police have not found any evidence tying the suspect to Horne.
Villatoro will remain in Whatcom County Jail to await her sentencing.