Discovery of dog saves Oregon man from 50-year jail term for sex crime conviction

The discovery of a black lab named Lucy led to the unravelling of a criminal case Monday against an Oregon man who had begun serving a 50-year prison sentence.

Joshua Horner, a plumber from the central Oregon town of Redmond, was convicted on April 12, 2017, of sexual abuse of a minor.

In the trial, the complainant testified Horner had threatened to shoot her animals if she went to the police about the alleged molestation, and said she saw him shoot her dog, killing it, to make his point.

Six months after a jury convicted Horner in a verdict that was not unanimous, he asked the Oregon Innocence Project for help. The group took up his case.

When the group raised concerns in April about the case with Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel, he agreed to work with them.

Horner had insisted he never shot the dog. Finding the dog would show the complainant had lied under oath. But if it was alive, where was it?

An Oregon Innocence Project volunteer and an official from Mr Hummel's office searched for it. The black lab had reportedly had been given away by Horner's then-girlfriend. The investigators were sniffing on the trail, but they had trouble tracking down the purported dog's owner.

"They made a couple trips around Deschutes County; he was not there," said Steve Wax, legal director of the Oregon Innocence Project. "We heard he was in Seattle. Then we learned he had a place on the Oregon Coast."

It was there, in the town of Gearhart northwest of Portland, that the pair finally found Lucy. That key evidence showed the complainant had not been truthful when testifying, the district attorney said.

"Lucy the dog was not shot. Lucy the dog is alive and well," Mr Hummel's office said in a statement.

Mr Hummel told the court today he's not certain that Horner did not sexually abuse the complainant, but that he's now not convinced he did. The Associated Press is not naming her because it doesn't identify alleged victims of sexual abuse.

Deschutes County Judge Michael Adler dismissed the case.

Horner, in a statement released by the Oregon Innocence Project, thanked the group, his family, friends and Hummel.

"Kelli and I are ready to pick up the pieces of our lives," Horner said, referring to his wife. The couple came out of the courthouse today holding hands and smiling.

Josh Horner with his wife Kelli Horner smiling and holding hands after leaving a hearing. Source: Associated Press

Horner had walked out of a state prison in Pendleton on August 3 after the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed his conviction and ordered a new trial. The appeals court said the defence had not been allowed to present certain evidence that was unrelated to the dog.

Now, Horner no longer faces that second trial. He declined a request for an interview, saying he is not ready to speak with the press just yet.

After Lucy was found, the complainant failed to attend a meeting in August to discuss her testimony, Mr Hummel said. Last Thursday, one of his investigators heard she was at a home near Redmond. When he pulled up to the driveway, she ran away.

Horner had been indicted under a previous district attorney, but the trial and conviction came under Mr Hummel's watch.

Hummel said in an email the issue of the dog being shot was raised for the first time during the trial, so there was no investigation to be done regarding it prior to trial, "and we had no credible reason to question the statement after it was made."

He said exonerations are a reminder that while America has "the best system of justice in the world it is not perfect. Mistakes will be made and we should be judged by how we respond to them."

Mr Wax, who was Oregon's former top federal public defender for 31 years before joining the Oregon Innocence Project, said this case is highly unusual.

"To be able to establish that a person should not have been convicted, you need something objective," Wax said in a telephone interview. "In most child sex abuse cases, there is no evidence. Finding Lucy alive showed the complainant lied under oath in her testimony."

It was the first exoneration for the Oregon Innocence Project, launched in 2014 to exonerate the wrongfully convicted and promote legal reforms.

Mr Wax praised Mr Hummel for his willingness to re-examine the case.

"Nationwide, what Mr Hummel did was unusual," Mr Wax said. "It is to be commended. It should be the model."

Lucy the dog was allegedly shot by Oregon man Josh Horner. She was found alive and had not been shot. Source: Associated Press



Watch: 'Cantankerous old' rescue dog's escape down Bay of Islands thoroughfare prompts laughter around the world

A rescue dog named Lily from the Bay of Islands has become an overnight internet sensation after her wily escape down Kawakawa’s main street – with a giant flag in tow — put smiles on tens of thousands of Facebook users' faces.

CCTV footage of the freedom-seeking furball's runner — accompanied by Yakety Sax, the song made famous by the Benny Hill Show — has been viewed more than 320,000 times in the first 16 hours since it was posted last night.

Lucie Green, a volunteer with Bay of Islands Animal Rescue, was taking the basset hound for a walk last week when she decided to stop at a local business to buy Lily a treat.

But the dog wasn't interested in waiting to see what surprise might be in store, instead bolting despite being tied to the large Coca-Cola flag.

"It wasn't until I saw the video that I realised I had charged into oncoming traffic, which is quite alarming, but I just wanted to get hold of her before someone hit her," Ms Green told the New Zealand Herald today, describing the nine-year-old as a "cantankerous old lady".

"After taking her home I realised I still had to return the flag and pay for my sausage," she added. "I couldn't believe it."

Ms Green changed her Facebook profile picture to show Lilly late last night as the video, posted by user James Mcdonald, quickly started to take on a life of its own.

Thousands of people have since commented on the video, with many of them admiring the dog’s spirit.

"I'm laughing my guts out it's so funny," wrote Facebook user Annie Hicks.

"Crack up go doggie," added user Katie Bennett.

The basset hound, named Lily, was tied to a large flag outside a dairy. So she took the flag with her on her wild escape. Source: Facebook/James Mcdonald


No vacancy: Curious mountain lion wanders around Colorado motel

A mountain lion has been caught on a surveillance camera dashing to the doorstep of a Colorado motel office, venturing toward the open doorway and then wandering away.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Jason Clay says nobody was hurt in the Sept. 9 encounter.

The Boulder Daily Camera reported Tuesday the lion approached the Foot of the Mountain Motel on Boulder's west side. Just after entering the camera's view, the lion pauses, as if startled.

Clay says that was when the lion spotted motel guests with with a dog on a leash.

Clay says the guests and their dog returned to their room and there was no trouble.

The lion thought better of kipping down for the night at the Foot of the Mountain Motel. Source: Associated Press

In August, a mountain lion entered a Boulder home and killed a house cat, and another was tranquilized and relocated from under a porch.


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Researcher talks 'positive knock-on effect' to animal welfare keeping us and our pets happy

Animal professional advocates and scientists are in Auckland for the 2018 Animal Welfare Conference.

Animal Welfare Conference organiser Professor Natalie Warren spoke to TVNZ’s Breakfast this morning about the links between human and animal welfare, and how treating animals well can help improve our lives and the lives of our beloved pets.

Professor Warren says her research in 'one welfare', which focuses on "exploring the links between human and animal welfare", particularly in "parts of the world where we’ve got enormous human welfare concerns and lots of competing human agendas".

She says the idea is about "really trying to emphasise the fact that you’re not just focusing on the animal end of the story, but you're also trying to make the reasons why we need to improve our animal welfare relevant to those people".

"The way that you make things relevant to humans is looking at it through a human lens and saying, 'If you improve things for animals, you will also have a knock-on effect – a positive knock-on effect – from improving the world for humans."

Professor Warren says one example is in developing countries, where you "can see that you have animals that are being kept in quite horrible conditions in many places of the world".

"You also find that you've got humans living alongside those who are dependent upon those animals, [and] dependent on those being productive. But actually, because of the way those animals are being kept, they're stressed, their immune systems are not great, they're more susceptible to disease, have higher welfare problems, and that then means that they don't produce as much food for those humans.

She says while it may appear like a 'chicken or the egg' situation, it also depends on a number of contributing factors which aren't always readily apparent.

"Although we're very familiar with what animal welfare is, in many parts of the world, there isn't even a word for animal welfare.

"There's not a real history or a culture of real care for animals, so you’re trying to make animal welfare relevant to people, and so, yes, you are going to end up with competing human agendas, but you also have to recognise that you provide the evidence, you provide the mechanisms through human behaviour change to show people how they can improve things for animals and why that matters for their welfare."

However, she acknowledges that the shift in thinking can be "very difficult, like boiling an ocean".

"It is a huge effort and lots and lots of different animal welfare charities around the world and in New Zealand - lots of government agencies - spend quite a lot of time trying to work out how to do this.

"I think just saying that people are cruel to animals is really not the story at all. What the truth is is that many people don't know how to improve animal welfare for animals, they don't know why it's important and it's up to us to look at ways that we can change the lens that they're looking through – change their behaviour so that they can see why it's important to improve conditions for animals."

Animal Welfare Conference speaker Natalie Warren spoke to Breakfast about changing our approach to animal welfare to improve the lives of our pets. Source: Breakfast


'Some links to the Mongrel Mob' – seven charged after BOP police sting sees guns, Hilux vehicles, $21k cash, drugs seized

Police have arrested and charged seven people after executing a number of search warrants in the eastern Bay of Plenty as part of Operation Notus II.

Speaking to media today Senior Sergeant Richard Miller said the operation had "some links to the Mongrel Mob".

Operation Notus II is the second phase of a long-running investigation, led by the National Organised Crime Group, into organised crime and the supply and supplying of methamphetamine and cannabis in the eastern Bay of Plenty region.

Acting Eastern Bay of Plenty Area Commander, Senior Sergeant Richard Miller briefed media today. Source: 1 NEWS

Search warrants were conducted this morning in properties in Kawerau, Whakatāne and Te Teko.

The seven are facing a number of charges, including possession for supply, and supplying, methamphetamine and cannabis, as well as firearms-related offending.

They will appear in Whakatāne District Court this afternoon.

Along with methamphetamine and cannabis, 26 firearms and more than $21,000 in cash has been seized.

Three stolen Toyota Hilux utes were recovered from one address in Kawerau, along with a number of power tools.

A stolen Toyota Hilux Surf and trailer were recovered from another address.

Operation Notus, launched in October 2017, revealed the Kawerau Mongrel Mob's involvement in the commercial distribution of meth and cannabis to the community.

As a result of the investigation, 48 people were arrested and almost $3 million in assets were frozen in March 2018.

Acting Eastern Bay of Plenty Area Commander, Senior Sergeant Richard Miller, said, "This was a major disruption to organised crime and methamphetamine supply in EBOP".

Guns seized during Operation Notus II in the Eastern Bay of Plenty
Guns seized during Operation Notus II in the Eastern Bay of Plenty Source: NZ Police