What to Know
- Barbara Jean Horn’s killer has never been found. A man convicted in her murder, Walter Ogrod, was freed in 2020 after the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office reviewed the case and found that he was coerced into giving a confession by city detectives.
- The Philadelphia police department previously said it was too busy to open a new murder investigation, but said it has reopened the case after watching NBC10’s digital docuseries on the girl’s murder and conviction of Walter Ogrod.
- Barbara Jean’s family said they hope the police department and city district attorney’s office will cooperate in order to find the killer after all these years.
The murder of 4-year-old Barbara Jean Horn in her Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood in 1988 shocked the entire city because of the heinousness of the crime.
When the man convicted in her killing was exonerated in 2020 and freed after serving 28 years in state prison, the city was again shocked that Walter Ogrod could have lost so much of his life behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit.
Ogrod is among 20 men who have been exonerated after decades in prison during city District Attorney Larry Krasner’s first term in office. In yet another twist to the Barbara Jean Horn murder, city police are now reopening the case.
Incredibly, it’s the first case to be reopened by police detectives from the exonerations during Krasner’s tenure, according to the department’s homicide chief.
“I felt that it was incumbent upon our unit to reopen that investigation,” police Captain Jason Smith told NBC10 Investigators.
Smith made the decision after watching NBC10’s digital true crime series, “Who Killed Barbara Jean?” that began airing online in late September.
He said he found out from the series that the district attorney’s office knows of other suspects following Ogrod’s exoneration.
“Prior to that, I did not have knowledge that there were additional suspects that had been developed,” he said.
The district attorney’s office has not identified the additional suspects, though the assistant district attorney in charge of the office’s Conviction Integrity Unit has said one of the suspects is dead and another is in prison.
Four years after Barbara Jean’s death, two Philly police detectives arrested Ogrod for the crime, saying he confessed.
Ogrod maintained during his two trials that he didn’t kill Barbara Jean and that he had been coerced into signing a false confession.
The jury in the first trial had decided to acquit Ogrod, but one juror shouted that he disagreed and the judge ruled it a mistrial.
In 1996, prosecutors had two jailhouse snitches testify that Ogrod confessed to them that he killed Barbara Jean. A jury found him guilty — and he was sentenced to death.
Then in 2018, while investigating the wrongful conviction of Anthony Wright, the DA’s Conviction Integrity Unit found that the detectives in that case had handled other cases that had previously been raised as questionable. One of those cases was Walter Ogrod’s.
Both detectives have declined to talk to NBC10 through their attorney.
District Attorney Larry Krasner said he didn’t even know the police department reopened the case.
“We found out from you. You’re the first one to tell us that the police department had reopened an investigation,” Krasner told NBC10 in a recent interview. “We’re happy to hear they did.”
The lack of communication between the police department and the district attorney’s office surprised Barbara Jean Horn’s family. Her stepfather, John Fahy, said he still can’t believe those involved in the case previously worked so hard to put an innocent man in prison.
“Like we’re talking that everybody is just cold blooded here,” Fahy said. “Everybody involved in a police department, everybody involved in the DA’s office, prior to Larry Krasner, were all cold-blooded.”