old murder case

Philly DA Reviewing New DNA Evidence in Infamous 1988 Child Murder

A petition filed by attorneys for Walter Ogrod, convicted of killing 4-year-old Barbara Jean Horn in Northeast Philadelphia, claims new DNA evidence does not link Ogrod to the little girl

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A court filing in the ongoing conviction review of Walter Ogrod for the 1988 killing of Barbara Jean Horn indicates that DNA test results from late last year should add to what his attorneys describe as "an unconstitutionally-obtained conviction and sentence."

His defense attorneys filed two documents as part of a consolidated Post-Conviction Relief Act petition that total some 600 pages. The new DNA results from last November are added to existing questions raised about the way detectives secured a confession from Ogrod, testimony from jailhouse informants and the defendant's competence to stand trial.

The killing of Horn in 1988 after she disappeared from her Rutland Street house shook the entire city. It took four years for detectives to arrest and charge Ogrod. He was 23 years old at the time of the murder and lived next door to Barbara Jean.

Ogrod is on death row in state prison.

Barbara Jean Horn, 4, was killed in 1988.

The little girl's body was found in a cardboard television box in a nearby alley. Witnesses saw a man drag the box to the curb, but none of them identified Ogrod as that man, his attorneys said in the petition.

The Philadelphia District Attorney's Conviction Integrity Unit agreed in 2018 to review the conviction and analyze DNA pulled from some of the 30-year-old evidence.

A hearing before a Common Pleas judge is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 24, but prosecutors are expected to ask the judge for 30 days to review and respond to Ogrod's new filing.

"Mr. Ogrod was convicted and sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit on the basis of a false confession, the false testimony of a professional informant, numerous acts of prosecutorial misconduct and trial counsel’s overall ineffectiveness," his attorneys wrote in the petition filed Jan. 17. "Mr. Ogrod respectfully petitions this Court for relief from his unconstitutionally-obtained conviction and sentence."

Walter Ogrod
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections via AP
Walter Ogrod is seen in this undated photo from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Ogrod, 39, lost a state Supreme Court appeal Wednesday, April 28, 2004. Ogrod was convicted of the murder of the Barbara Jean Horner in 1988 in northeaster Philadelphia.

A spokeswoman for District Attorney Larry Krasner declined to comment Thursday on the case.

Former Assistant District Attorney Judith Rubino, the prosecutor in the Ogrod case who worked in the DA's office from 1971 to 2004, vehemently denied any misconduct at trial.

"I haven't seen anything to indicate he didn't do it, that he's innocent," Rubino said when reached by phone Thursday, adding that no one at Krasner's office notified her that they were reviewing the case. "If there is, I haven't seen it."

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