Birch Bay woman gets 43 years

By Steve Guntli

Lesley Ann Villatoro, 29, who was convicted last month for driving her boyfriend to the scene of a grisly crime, was sentenced to 43 years in prison on March 24.

The sentence was four years more than prosecutors were seeking.

In May 2014, Villatoro drove her boyfriend, Chad Horne, 34, to a private home in Ferndale. Villatoro testified that she believed he was going to spend some time with a friend, and she was to wait in a nearby park with their twin daughters and young nephew.

Horne forced his way into the home at gunpoint, attacked a 39-year-old mother of three, bound her hands with zip ties, slashed her throat and fired a single round from a .45 handgun at her. The bullet missed, and Horne fled the scene in the victim’s black Chevy Tahoe. Horne killed himself later that day after police ran the Tahoe off the road. The victim was able to make it to a neighbor’s house and survived the attack.

Villatoro was found guilty of complicity in six felony charges: three counts of kidnapping in the first degree, one count of attempted murder in the first degree, one count of burglary in the first degree and one count of theft of a motor vehicle. Since a gun was used to commit each of these crimes, an additional firearms charge was tacked on to all of these. The minimum sentence for a guilty verdict with these charges would have been 30 years with no time off for good behavior, according to state law.

Prosecutor Dave McEachran has said he believes another party hired Horne to commit the murder. He claimed Villatoro was in on the plan, and the couple was planning to flee together after the murder.

Villatoro had purchased a duffel bag and a can of gasoline from Wal-Mart in Bellingham a few weeks before the crime. The duffel bag was used to store zip ties and weapons, and police believe the gasoline was intended to dispose of evidence after the fact.

Thomas Freyer, Villatoro’s attorney, argued Villatoro didn’t know anything about the crime. He claimed Villatoro and Horne, who had been living in Horne’s sister’s garage in Birch Bay, were planning to move back to Arizona this summer, and Villatoro thought the gas can and duffel bag were to be used for the trip.

Some jury members expressed regret after rendering their decision. Diane Sanders-Rehberger, a juror on the case, made a statement to Judge Charles Snyder after the trial that the verdict was “my biggest mistake.” Sanders-Rehberger had not been convinced of Villatoro’s guilt in the early stages of the proceedings, but eventually changed her vote.

Freyer attempted to file a motion for a retrial in light of Sanders-Rehberger’s statement, but Judge Snyder refused the motion based on State v. Reynoldson, which set the precedent that once a jury has reached a verdict, it cannot take it back.

Prior to her sentencing, Villatoro made a statement to the court, saying she “wished she had answers” for what Horne
had done.

“I will never forgive him, and I don’t expect anyone else to,” she said.

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