JOHNSTOWN — The Tribune-Democrat is counting down the top stories of 2012, as determined by voting by newsroom employees. One story will appear each day in print and e-editions between now and the end of the year. Readers can vote for their choice for the top story at www.tribdem.com/beststories.
In March, a verdict was reached in the murder trial of Johnstown native Nicholas Adam Horner. The two first-degree murder counts came almost three years after Horner shot and killed 19-year-old Scott Garlick and 64-year-old Raymond Williams in April of 2009 near the 58th Street Subway restaurant in Altoona.
The six days of testimony at the Blair County Courthouse in Hollidaysburg examined the harmful impact of Horner’s military service, which included two tours in Iraq and one in Kuwait and resulted in the veteran developing post-traumatic stress disorder. During jury selection, defense attorneys sought permission to allow an insanity defense. While the proceedings were put on a three-week hiatus, a Supreme Court panel eventually rejected the request.
The defense then put Horner’s PTSD diagnosis at the forefront of its case, although mental health experts debunked Horner’s violent behavior as a result of the disorder. It was then that defense attorney Thomas Dickey told the jury the fatal shootings were part of a drug-induced delirium, brought on by prescriptions that he took to treat PTSD.
After a 90-minute deliberation, Horner was found guilty on 10 out of 11 charges – which also included robbery, aggravated assault, terroristic threats and attempted theft – and was sentenced in April to two life sentences without the chance of parole.