June Trial Set For Brownsville Murder of Barry Horn, '70s Houston's Answer To Truman Capote

Categories: Crime
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Photo courtesy Nueces County SO
Ernesto Martinez
A June trial date has been set for the suspect in the Brownsville murder of Barry Horn, a former Channel 13 TV news personality who was at the time of his death the executive director of the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art.

The 59-year-old Horn, once a regular in Maxine Mesinger's column who also dispensed fashion tips on Good Morning Houston in the 1970s and '80s, was found dead in his home last October. He had been stabbed 77 times. Police described 54 of the wounds as "significant perforations." A co-worker had gone to his home to check on him when Horn failed to show up to help prepare for a museum gala scheduled for that evening.

Horn's 2008 Hyundai Sonata and several personal items were missing from the scene, and police quickly identified Ernesto Ivan Martinez, Horn's 20-year-old housemate, as the suspect in his murder.

Martinez, a Mexican national, was arrested by authorities in Matamoros and turned over to Brownsville police. He has since been charged with theft of Horn's car and capital murder, for which he could face the death penalty.

Martinez is being held without bond and has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge at his formal arraignment last Thursday. Pre-trial proceedings have been tentatively set for June 3, pending the analysis of evidence from a state crime lab.

After leaving Houston, Horn served as executive director of the South Texas Symphony Association and as associate vice president for development at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College. He had been working at the Brownsville art museum for less than a year at the time of his murder.

Back in October, Horn's friend and co-worker, the former Houstonian Will Everett, told the Brownsville Herald that Horn seemed to his young eyes like something like Houston's version of Truman Capote.

"He knew everyone, he could make everyone laugh, and he just had a sweet gentle soul."

Everett, who couldn't immediately be reached for this article, described Horn as a mentor. "I learned so much about the dynamics of human relationships from him," he said. "He understood people, he understood how they ticked, and watching him in action was like taking a college course in human psychology. He was just brilliant."

One of the things Horn taught him was generosity to those less fortunate. "He really believed in breaking down class boundaries," Everett told the Herald. "He hated class distinctions. He really fought to allow people to have a chance who might not have been given a chance. When I started working at the museum with him, right away I noticed he was taking advantage of any kind of public programs to give community hours to parolees, people who needed community service done. He would go looking for them, because he thought it was a good opportunity to help them."

That generosity just might have gotten him killed, as Everett disputes the theory put forth by Brownsville police that Horn and Martinez were in a sexual relationship. Everett told the Herald that Horn took in the young man out of a sense of compassion, and that over the course of his several months as Horn's houseguest, Martinez was constantly bringing in girlfriends. Everett says that Horn soured on Martinez after Martinez allegedly swiped Horn's debit card.

"The police are making this out to be a crime of passion," Everett said. "It couldn't be. They were never involved."

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