Police: Girlfriend drove Chad Horne to Ferndale attack that ended in car chase, suicide


A Birch Bay woman has been arrested for allegedly driving her boyfriend to a Ferndale home where he attacked a woman, fled and then committed suicide Friday, May 2.

Lesley A. Villatoro, 28, was booked into Whatcom County Jail Sunday on suspicion of complicity to: first-degree attempted murder, robbery, burglary and three counts of kidnapping.

Villatoro, who appeared to be pregnant, made her first appearance in Whatcom County Jail courtroom Monday afternoon. Her bail was set at $1 million, and she teared up as Whatcom County Prosecutor Dave McEachran described the events of Friday morning that ended in the suicide of her boyfriend, Chad Horne, 34.

According to McEachran:

On Friday morning, Villatoro dropped Horne off near a home in the 5300 block of Patriot Lane, near Smith Road and Interstate 5. Horne grabbed a bag from Villatoro's trunk and knocked on the door of the home. When a woman answered, he forced his way in with a gun. While holding the gun, he took the woman's 1-year-old daughter from her arms and placed the girl in a high chair and told the woman's 5-year-old son to go in another room and stay there.

He then told the woman to get her keys and go start her car, a black Chevy Tahoe. When she came back inside after starting the car, he made her get on the ground and zip-tied her hands behind her back before slitting her throat with a knife. He then fired a shot at her, but missed, and ran from the home. He drove off in her Tahoe.

The woman was able to get out of the house and get help from a neighbor.

"She realized if she didn't leave, she'd bleed to death," McEachran told the court.

The slash to her throat was deep and had cut her trachea. After medics arrived, she was taken to St. Joseph hospital, where she was rushed into surgery. She was unable to speak to investigators but could write down what happened. Police haven't released the name of the woman - who turned 40 on Saturday - citing her safety as the investigation continues.

The children were not injured.

After Horne drove off in the Tahoe, police were able to chase him down and bump the back of the SUV to force it to stop on West Smith Road near Northwest Drive. Horne shot himself in the head before deputies could get him out of the car.

A knife with a 7-inch blade was found in the Tahoe after Horne was stopped, as well as a gun, cellphone, a container of bleach, a black mask and black gloves. Zip ties fell out of his pockets as medics worked on him. He died at St. Joseph hospital.

Shortly after neighbors called in about the attack, the county's 911 dispatchers got a call that someone with a rifle had fired three shots at Ferndale High School. Six minutes later, someone called 911 to report a shooter at Home Depot in Bellingham. Both calls came from the same number. Both reports were fabricated, but they diverted law enforcement away from the Patriot Lane attack. McEachran said he believes Horne made those calls as he fled. Horne had worked at the Home Depot.

Detectives found Villatoro's number in Horne's cellphone and tracked her down at the Birch Bay home on Rock Crab Drive where she stayed with Horne. According to Bellingham Police Lt. Bob Vander Yacht, she admitted she had aided Horne in the crimes.

She told investigators that she gave Horne a ride to the area near the victim's home and was supposed to meet him in a designated location 30 minutes later, McEachran said. He never showed up, and she later read about his death on The Bellingham Herald's website.

According to McEachran, she told investigators that Horne planned the whole thing. A search of her car revealed a 5-gallon container of gasoline, a backpack with men's clothes and shoes inside, a police scanner and a container of bleach. McEachran said that bleach can be used to get rid of DNA evidence and fingerprints.

Investigators are still "working like mad" to determine a motive, McEachran said. Detectives from Ferndale and Bellingham police and the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office are on the case.

"With the arrest of Lesley Villatoro we believe that we are even closer to fully understanding this horrendous act," Vander Yacht wrote in a press release issued Monday.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Bellingham Detective Sue Howell at 360-778-8682. Information also can be given on the Bellingham Police tip line at 360-778-8611.

Reach Zoe Fraley at zoe.fraley@bellinghamherald.com or 360-756-2803. Read the Dispatcher Blog at bellinghamherald.com/dispatcher-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhamcrime.

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