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Another delay in Louisiana texting homicide case; Pre-teen murdered nearly 4 years ago

Justin Bloxom

Justin Bloxom was killed in March 2010 after being lured by a series of cellphone texts

Justin Bloxom

The man accused of posing as a teen girl in phone texts and killing a 12-year-old Louisiana boy is headed to trial... soon, a DeSoto Parish judge said.

It's taken close to four years to move the case to trial. Justin Bloxom, of North DeSoto Parish, was smothered to death in March 2010. Brian Horn, a 37-year-old twice convicted sex offender, is accused of luring the pre-teen away from a friend's home by portraying himself as a girl in text messages to Bloxom.

District Judge Robert Burgess made it clear today that he plans to move forward ASAP with the capital murder trial of Brian Horn. Therefore, he said, a delay until Monday for a hearing on new evidence is that — a delay... not a continuance sought by the defense.

This means jury selection scheduled to begin Monday in East Baton Rouge Parish won’t happen. But Burgess left open the possibility of it resuming at some point in February. He mentioned another date of March 17.

“Clear your calendars and be ready,” he told prosecutors and defense attorneys at least three times during a 30-minute court hearing Wednesday morning.

The hearing was set to review a motion for continuance sought by Horn’s lead attorney, Daryl Gold. Gold said the prosecutor's revelation this week that a fingerprint lifted four years ago from Horn’s taxi cab was positively matched to Bloxom was a "game-changer" for his defense strategy.

“That’s the only piece of physical evidence that puts Justin Bloxom in the vehicle,” Gold told the court.

Though the fingerprint taken from the taxi has been part of the State's evidence, it had not been positively matched to the victim. Only during trial preparations over the past few weeks did investigators make another stab at identifying the print by using a computer software program that enhances fingerprints.

At the time of the homicide, neither DeSoto nor Bossier sheriffs’ offices had the enhancement software. Bossier sheriff’s office was involved in some aspects of evidence collection since the taxi cab company Horn worked for was in its jurisdiction. Horn’s leased cab was seized from the site within hours after Justin’s body was discovered.

Judge Burgess said today that he had done his own research into the enhancement process after learning the issue was pending. He said he could find no reported cases in Louisiana or at the federal court level referencing the technology used.

“It may be a perfectly legitimate technology. We just don’t know,” Burgess said.

Burgess says he has questions for the state's forensics expert, who lifted the prints using methods that enhance the ridges and valleys

The hearing could not move forward, however, because the man who performed the analysis, Deputy Owen McDonnell, had not completed his report. Assistant District Attorney Ron Stamps said he anticipated the report by this afternoon.

Burgess at first threw out the possibility of recessing the hearing until Friday but decided to move it to 10 a.m. Monday to give the defense time to review McDonnell’s report.

When questioned by Burgess about the defense’s progress in hiring an expert to perform an independent analysis of the fingerprint evidence, attorney Richard Goorley answered that calls have been made, but none had responded. Goorley also noted the next step would be to secure funding to retain the expert.

“You better find one available,” Burgess said, noting there are “a lot of experts in the state.” And he added while the defense is entitled to an expert, it didn’t necessarily have to hire the most expensive one.

Burgess was adamant he was not going to delay the trial another six months or a year.

“That’s not happening. … 30 days, six weeks maybe,” he said.

The courtroom in East Baton Rouge Parish had been reserved for jury selection for the entire month of February. Once seated, the panel will be transported 150 miles northwest to DeSoto Parish for the actual trial.

In light of the possibility of a delay as a result of this issue, Burgess said in court that he has been trying to reach officials in East Baton Rouge, where an entire courtroom has been reserved for the month of February for jury selection. However, offices there remain closed due to the ongoing winter weather emergency in South Louisiana.

Horn was in court for Wednesday's hearing, as well as members of Bloxom's family.

The murder of Bloxom shook the sleepy rural community of North DeSoto Parish where he lived. Justin was lured away from a friend’s house by a man who used text messages pretending to be a young girl who wanted to meet up with him. He was reported missing and a series of sightings of Horn’s green taxi cab on U.S. Highway 171 near Stonewall prompted deputies to look in the general area. Justin’s body was found across a fence line in a small pool of water the next day.

Horn is alleged to have smothered Bloxom to death.

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