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The Wrong Man
Pawtucket Times
A Year Earlier, Scott Hornoff's Hopes were Slim

Man to be freed on murder rap
By: Douglas Hadden
November 05, 2002
 


PAWTUCKET -- Former city resident Todd Barry is behind bars today after suddenly confessing to the 1989 killing of Victoria Cushman, for which former Warwick police detective Jeffrey Scott Hornoff has been in prison since his conviction in 1996.

"This is a one-in-a-million situation," Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse said at a press conference Monday night at state police headquarters in Scituate.

The startling reversal of fortune saw Barry, 46, held on murder charges Monday while legal wheels began turning to set Hornoff free as soon as Wednesday,
A decade ago, Barry was listed in the 1990-91 then-Nynex White Pages as living at 222 Lafayette St. in Pawtucket, one street south of Pidge Street off Pawtucket Avenue just this side of the Providence line.

He is believed to have lived at that address for several years extending from approximately that time frame.
Barry, who is the brother of a retired Narragansett police officer, Ward Barry, was "never a suspect or even a witness" in the case, Whitehouse said.

The guilt of the Cushman killing was something "bottled up within him that appears to have boiled over," Whitehouse said, starting with conversations with family before moving to a talk with legal counsel.

It was late last Friday afternoon when Barry walked in with his lawyer, William Devereaux, to meet with attorneys in the criminal division of Whitehouse's office. That three-hour interview sparked a flurry of weekend action by authorities.

"We did considerable investigation over the weekend to corroborate what had gone on his (Barry's) life in recent days," Whitehouse said without elaborating. He said authorities worked "to challenge his story" and determine if it was consistent with known evidence and facts.

Whitehouse credited William Ferland, an assistant attorney general, state police Col. Steven Pare and Lt. Thomas Denniston and Warwick Police Chief Stephen McCartney among others for their quick work on the case.

Hornoff, a married father with an infant son, had been having an affair with Cushman. The relationship of Barry, a self-employed carpenter and contractor, with the victim remained unclear Monday. "He knew her and I don't care to get into the details of his statement at this point," Whitehouse said.

The two men "did not know each other, they had no contact," Whitehouse said, but may have both been at Cushman's apartment above the Alpine Ski Shop in Warwick on the fateful Aug. 11, 1989 day she died.

"They may very well have been. It's very possible Hornoff arrived" and found Cushman dead, Whitehouse said. He criticized Hornoff for "an incredible failure" to call 911, "evasions" and the type of "misstatements" to police typical of someone "who is trying to hide something."  1

Hornoff, a married father with an infant son, did not testify at trial but maintained his innocence at his sentencing before Superior Court Robert Krause, Wednesday, Krause will rule on a petition by the attorney general's office on release terms for Hornoff.

Hornoff appealed but his life sentence was affirmed in 1999. He has continued to profess his innocence and in pushing for DNA testing interested the group truthinjustice.org on his behalf.

"The case," the group asserts on its Web site, "was based on circumstantial evidence, innuendoes and speculation. There were no fingerprints, no blood evidence, no DNA matches, no witnesses, and no evidence."

Whitehouse did not say if any DNA or other testing was done over the weekend or is being planned on evidence compiled in the case.

Cushman's murder was investigated by state police after a probe by Warwick police stalled amid criticisms the department was protecting one of its own.
Whitehouse defended the work by prosecutors and the jury that convicted Hornoff, but said the case shows that in life "there is always room for something astonishing to happen and this time it did." He called the case "a vivid reminder" that "our system of justice..is not perfect."

Whitehouse said the apparently false conviction did not mean investigators or prosecutors "did anything improper or wrong," and that Hornoff had repeatedly lied for reasons "only known to him."

McCartney said his officers were notified of the case's turn Monday. He said he was unsure if Hornoff, eventually fired by the department, wants his old job back and would have to wait for what petition was presented before deciding how to act on it.

Whitehouse said he expects Judge Krause to consider setting bail conditions for Hornoff Wednesday, "and if things prove out, as I expect they will in due course," charges against the former Warwick detective would be dismissed.

Barry was arraigned Monday for murder and was sent to the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston -- for now, still Hornoff's home -- pending a bail hearing Nov. 14.

Whitehouse said while he is still "not a conscientious objector of the death penalty," Rhode Island "thankfully" does not have a capital punishment statute that possibly could have executed the wrong man in this case.

When Cushman's sister was notified that prosecutors would seek to have Hornoff released, she was "understandably upset," Whitehouse said. "The family has accustomed itself to Mr. Hornoff's guilt," and now must make that readjustment, he said.

1  There is absolutely no factual foundation for Whitehouse's statement that Scott Hornoff was present at Vickie Cushman's apartment after her murder.  The only thing "incredible" here is Mr. Whitehouse, who, faced with Todd Barry's confession, continued to hurl false allegations at an innocent man to save his own "reputation".  Sheldon Whitehouse prefers to slander a man he knows is innocent rather than admit he was wrong.

©The Pawtucket Times 2002


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