Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Barbara Jean Horn

Real Name: Barbara Jean Horn
Nicknames: No known nicknames
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Date: July 12, 1988


Details: Four-year-old Barbara Jean Horn was the only child of Sharon and John Fahy. They lived in the Northeast section of Philadelphia, a relatively crime-free area. At 3pm on July 12, 1988, while Sharon was at work, she went outside to play in the front yard of her home when she vanished. John discovered that she was missing when he went outside to check on her. He searched around the neighborhood, checking with neighbors. However, he could find no trace of her. He called the police and an official search for her began.
Two hours later, Barbara was found bludgeoned to death and stuffed into a cardboard box which previously contained a television; it was placed next to some trash cans two blocks from her home. It could be the only clue to solve her murder.

Suspects: Four eyewitnesses observed a suspicious man at St. Vincent Street and Castor Avenue, carrying a cardboard box that was believed to be the one that Barbara was later found in; this man is believed to be her killer. He was described as a white male, between 25 and 30 years old, 5'8", 180 pounds, with sandy brown hair. He was wearing a white t-shirt and cut-off jeans at the time. The box previously contained a 13 inch color Hitachi television set.
Extra Notes: This case aired for the first time on November 16, 1988. This was a unique segment where Lt. Arthur Durrant who was involved in the case was interviewed directly on camera by Robert Stack. It also featured no re-enactments. It was also featured on Death Row Stories.
Results: Unresolved. In 1992, authorities re-interviewed people from Barbara's neighborhood; one of the individuals interviewed was her neighbor, Walter Ogrod. When he began giving conflicting information to the police, they confronted him about it, and he broke down and confessed to killing her. He told investigators that she had come over to play with a young boy who was living with his family. He claimed that he lured her to the basement and tried to sexually assault her. When she tried to fight back, he struck her repeatedly with a metal rod from a weight set until she died. He claimed that he washed her, wrapped her in a towel, placed her in the box, and then disposed of both several blocks away. When shown a picture of the box, he identified it as the one he placed her in.
After he signed the confession, Ogrod was arrested and charged with Barbara's murder. He allegedly confessed the crime again to a jailhouse snitch. Some parts of his confession were able to be confirmed: the medical examiner determined that her body had been washed and that the injuries inflicted on her were consistent with those coming from a metal rod. Photographs taken in 1986 showed that the weight set with the metal rod was in the basement of Ogrod's home. Also, authorities had determined that the box came from a family that shared a driveway with Ogrod's.
In 1993, Ogrod went on trial for Barbara's murder. He claimed that he was coerced into confessing the crime by the officers, and that the snitch was lying. He was almost acquitted of the charges until one juror announced that he disagreed with the acquittal; a mistrial was then granted. In October 1996, almost ten years after the murder, he was retried, convicted of the crime, and sentenced to death.
However, new evidence has come to surface that suggests Walter Ogrod is innocent. His supporters point to the fact that he was just one vote away from an acquittal and that he looks nothing like the composite of the alleged killer (which is shown above). Also, another man, convicted child killer Raymond Sheehan, was identified as the killer by an eyewitness who came in contact with the suspect. Furthermore, Ogrod's confession allegedly occurred after he was interrogated and coerced for over 36 hours without sleep. He was allegedly denied council when he asked the detectives for a lawyer during questioning. There were also inconsistencies in the confession itself. For example, Walter Ogrod claimed to have beaten Horn to death with a metal bar, but the coroner determined the murder weapon to be 2x4 inches, significantly smaller than the bar in question. Finally, no physical evidence has ever connected him to Barbara's murder. He was scheduled to be executed in 2005 but was given a stay of execution.
In 2018, a conviction review was ordered and DNA testing was conducted on evidence in the case. In January of 2020, it was announced that male DNA found on Barbara's body did not match Ogrod. In March, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office stated that Ogrod was "likely innocent" and that his conviction was based on flawed, hidden, or corrupt evidence. Prosecutors stated they believed his confession was coerced by the two homicide detectives that interviewed him, as it was later discovered they had a track record of doing this. They also no longer believe that the jailhouse informant that testified against him was credible. The DA's Office asked a judge to vacate his conviction.
Walter Ogrod was due in court on March 27, 2020 to meet with a judge about vacating his conviction. However, this was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The meeting was rescheduled for June. On June 5, 2020, a Philadelphia judge vacated Ogrod's conviction and ordered his release. Five days later, another judge agreed to let prosecutors withdraw all outstanding charges against him. As a result, he is legally exonerated, meaning the case is officially unsolved.