Police sent out a request for tips from the public Tuesday about a failed murder-for-hire from 2014 in Ferndale, where a stranger slashed a woman’s throat at her home and left her for dead.
The statute of limitations expires in two weeks, on May 2, for charges to be filed against whoever hired a hitman to kill the woman at a house on Patriot Place, according to the Whatcom County Prosecutor’s Office.
Chad C. Horne, 34, showed up at the front door on the morning of May 2, 2014. The woman saw the stranger dressed in all black through a frosted window. He pushed his way in armed with a .45 caliber revolver and a long hunting knife. Over a few terrifying minutes, he tied her hands with zip ties, slashed her throat, and fired one gunshot at her from close range in the house. The woman’s young children were home, too.
The bullet missed. Horne fled, and later shot himself in the head at the end of a police pursuit on Smith Road. He died. The woman, 39, ran to her neighbor’s yard where she passed out. She lost about half of her blood volume, but survived. She testified months later at the trial of Horne’s girlfriend, Lesley Alexandra Villatoro, who dropped off Horne outside the woman’s home that day.
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Villatoro denied knowing what Horne planned to do. A jury found her guilty of complicity to six felonies, including first-degree attempted murder. Superior Court Judge Charles Snyder sentenced her to 43 years in prison. The conviction was appealed, but this month the state Court of Appeals upheld it.
Throughout the trial the prosecutor, Dave McEachran, dropped strong hints about a motive: The victim’s new girlfriend still had a husband, and he was jealous – so jealous that police suspected him of hiring Horne as a hitman. So far no charges have been filed against that man. At Villatoro’s trial in 2015, a detective estimated she carried out 70 warrants, but couldn’t find hard evidence of a link between Horne and the man.
Since the trial, the working theory of the case has remained the same, McEachran said Tuesday. The prosecutor said police have been exploring many different angles of the case over the past 3 years. He declined to go into detail.
State law gives no deadline to prosecute a murder. But this case – soliciting an attempted murder – has a 3-year time limit, McEachran said.
Bellingham Police Lt. Danette Beckley sent out the news release asking for tips Tuesday. She declined to answer follow-up questions without the lead detective’s approval.
Tips can be directed to Bellingham police online at cob.org/tips. Police say they will accept anonymous tips, too.