BOULDER — The daughter of a man stabbed to death by his next-door neighbor in Lyons last fall said she is unhappy that her father’s killer will spend only 24 years in prison.
Willis Horn, 41, of Lyons will spend the next two decades behind bars after pleading guilty to second-degree murder for killing 65-year-old Neal Blattner.
LeeAnn Krog, Blattner’s daughter, said during Horn’s sentencing hearing Friday that she couldn’t begin to explain what had been taken away from her family.
“My father has grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren he never got to meet,” Krog said. “I don’t agree with the plea bargain. I don’t think it’s fair. It doesn’t make things better.”
Horn told investigators he repeatedly stabbed Blattner — 18 times — because Blattner tried to sexually assault him in the early-morning hours of Nov. 20, 2004. Horn said he went to Blattner’s house on Evans Street to fix a broken smoke detector.
But prosecutors contended again Friday that Horn, an admitted cocaine user who told police he once used $1,000 worth of the drug a day, killed Blattner because he knew that his neighbor frequently had hundreds of dollars in cash with him and Horn’s family was in a financial crisis.
“This case was motivated by money,” prosecutor Ken Kupfner said. “But people don’t want to believe Mr. Blattner died over just a few hundred dollars.”
The $150 Blattner is believed to have had in the two wallets he had, found empty on his bedroom floor, was never recovered.
Kupfner painted a picture of Horn as a man with two identities: Saturday night Willis Horn, and Sunday morning Willis Horn.
The Saturday night Horn spent his time scoring cocaine and dropping quarters into pornography photo booths at a Longmont adult bookstore, he said.
Horn was known to take money from those close to him when he needed it, Kupfner said.
Court records show that Horn pleaded guilty in 1994 to second-degree burglary after he broke into a Longmont bookstore where his mother-in-law, Julie Wechsler, worked. Kupfner said reports show that Horn stole the money because he owed creditors $2,000.
The alter-ego of that man, Sunday morning Willis Horn, was a contributing member of society, Kupfner said. He coached youth sports, volunteered at his church and spent hours of time helping his neighbor, Neal Blattner.
“I truly feel for Mr. Horn’s family and the community that knew one of the lives Mr. Horn lived. It’s unfortunate that Sunday morning Willis Horn has to go (to prison) with him.”
Horn wept as his attorney, Kristin Johnson, portrayed him as a “broken man” who, because of psychologically burying the sexual assault he suffered as a child at the hands of his grandfather, snapped when Blattner made sexual advances toward him.
“The legacy of shame was so strong that when it happened again, with Mr. Blattner, he couldn’t face telling anybody about it,” she said, later adding, “He was used to being silent about this.”
Horn’s wife, Judi, told the court her husband tried to avoid Blattner in the weeks before he killed him. She tried desperately to get him to tell her what was wrong, but he wouldn’t, she said.
She told Judge Carol Glowinsky that her husband finally recounted the abuse he says he suffered after learning that Blattner was convicted in 1979 of child sex assault.
Horn, though, didn’t discuss either the money or sexual assault motive when addressing the court Friday, most of his statement unintelligible through thick sobs.
“I apologize for what I did. There’s nothing I can do to take it back,” he said.
After apologizing to the media and investigators for initially lying about what he says happened that night, Horn repeatedly said he wishes he could take back what had happened.
“I’m willing to take punishment for what I did that was wrong,” he said.
Horn will spend at least 18 years in prison before he is eligible to serve a required five years of parole. Colorado law requires that he serve at least 75 percent of his 24-year sentence.
The maximum time in prison Horn faced as part of his plea bargain was 40 years.
Said Glowinsky, extending her sympathy to Blattner’s family: “One thing the court can’t do is fix things in cases like this. A lot of lives have been ruined, really, as a result.”
Amanda Arthur can be reached at 303-684-5215, or by e-mail at email@example.com.