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Lasting lessons from Justin Bloxom - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Lasting lessons from Justin Bloxom

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Justin Bloxom, 12 Justin Bloxom, 12
Justin's mother and jurors visit the Justin Bloxom Memorial Garden Justin's mother and jurors visit the Justin Bloxom Memorial Garden
The morning of March 30, 2010, DeSoto Parish authorities responded to a report about a boy missing from the Stonewall area. Deputies get missing person calls all the time, but this one would soon prove different.

"We were actually talking with each other on the way up there about what it was going to be like [and] how much trouble the child was going to be in," Sgt. Adam Ewing said. "When we got there, it did not take us long to figure out that was not going to be the case."

In just a matter of hours, investigators found 12-year-old Justin Bloxom's body on this stretch of Highway 171 in DeSoto Parish and his killer Brian Horn in custody.

Related article: Justice for Justin

"I was shocked," juror Becky Thompson told KTBS 3 News of the evidence and testimony presented during trial. "I know there are sexual predators out there, but I never realized how bad it is."

When investigators filed an urgent circumstances warrant for the information on Bloxom's phone, they found a series of text messages between Horn and his victim, as well as dozens of photos of child porn that Horn sent to Bloxom while he portrayed himself as a young girl named Amber.

"What stood out on this case was I think in the very beginning we just didn't realize who we were dealing with," Ewing said of Horn's behavior. "It took us a long period of time to realize just how dangerous and serious he was."

Ewing says parents should never underestimate the lengths a sex offender will go to pray on young children.

Authorities believe Horn asked his stepdaughter's friend and neighbor for ringtones. He borrowed her phone, downloaded her contact list, and within moments had phone numbers for Justin and other area kids. Investigators say Horn sent messages to several of the kids on that contact list but engaged Justin.

Ewing says the neighbor's unwilling involvement is another lesson for parents: know whose around your children. A quick sex offender search would have returned Horn's two prior convictions.

"I don't think they realized what was right next door to them," Ewing said of Horn.

Thompson says she's shared her experience on the trial since returning home. She tells anyone with kids what happened to Justin Bloxom in hopes they'll learn from his death and prevent further tragedy.

"In fact, I had an email that I sent my family and friends telling them about the trial and one of my coworkers said she printed that email, took it home, and talked to her son that night," Thompson said. "I think the main thing is we need to do whatever we can to protect our children. Unfortunately, there are evil people in the world and they're constantly going to come up with new ideas and things they can do."

Justin's former school, North DeSoto Middle School, has a memorial garden in his honor.

Three states- Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma- have Justin Bloxom bills on the books banning convicted sex offenders from driving taxis, limousines, and buses. 

Jurors recommended the death penalty for Brian Horn. He is scheduled to be formally sentenced Wednesday, May 28.

Horn is a twice convicted sex offender. His first offense- indecent behavior with juveniles- occurred in 1995 before text messaging was common place, but investigators say Horn used technology to his advantage in his second offense and with Justin. They say Horn- like many child sex offenders- adapted with technology.

Related link: Parents and schools beware - 10 risky sites and apps adults should know

Becky Thompson's email to friends and family following jury service on State of LA versus Brian Horn:

"It's hard to know where to start this, I could talk for hours about my experience on the jury for this capital murder case.

It all started with a jury questionnaire I received last year. I filled it out confident I would never be chosen for a civil case since I work for an insurance company. I went to jury orientation and filled out a supplemental questionnaire; I learned that the jury was for a murder trial in Desoto parish.

They started out with 400 potential jurors and during the process added 100 more.  A lot of people were released due to hardship - capital murder cases jurors are sequestered.  The remaining jurors were questioned about their feelings on the death penalty. That was one of the most stressful days. You are asked to articulate your views on a subject that before that you have only thought about abstractly. We were asked to look at the defendant and one by one they asked each potential juror if there was anything about him that would keep us from sentencing him to death if we found him guilty of first degree murder. That was hard. That night I kept seeing his face in my dreams. They eliminated more jurors. The final 61 were brought back for more questions- about how we would consider evidence etc. After the trial we asked the prosecuting attorneys how they selected us. We were told it was a combination of our views on the death penalty (if you are extreme in either being for or against you were eliminated), our jury questionnaires, how we answered questions and our demeanor - if we listened and paid attention, how we interacted with the other jurors.  On March 26th I received the phone call that I had been selected for the jury.  After frantically packing (no electronics with an on/off switch) and getting the dogs and cats to the vet, I was at the court house. We were sworn in as jurors, put into the custody of the Desoto Parish Sheriff's Department and transported to Mansfield, LA. There were 15 jurors ( 3 alternates). None of us knew each other. We instantly began bonding. One of the jurors lives down the street from me.  What helped us get through this was that we were all committed to being honest and fair jurors and that we have a good sense of humor.  The evidence in the trial was overwhelming. The defense tried to say the killing was accidental, but when you smother a 12 year old boy for at least 90 seconds it is not an accident. It took us about 20 minutes to deliver a guilty of first degree murder verdict. After we reached a verdict the jurors joined hands and prayed for everyone involved - the family of the victim as well as the defendant and his family. The criteria according to the laws for the death penalty had been met so we proceeded to the penalty phase. We kept looking for a reason not to impose the death penalty, but there was nothing there. Even the witnesses for the defense actually strengthened the prosecution's position.  Before we began deliberations the jury again prayed and asked for wisdom.  We took a preliminary vote. Then we went about the room and each juror discussed their thoughts. We voted again and the vote for the death penalty was unanimous.  After the verdict was read the Sheriff asked what the jury wanted to do. We told him that if the family was willing we would like to meet with the victim's family.  The family came into the jury room crying and thanking us for what we did. Justin's step-father told me we had done for his wife what he had not been able to do for her during the four years since Justin's death (the trial was during the four year anniversary of the murder).  The school Justin attended has a memorial garden/outdoor classroom in honor of Justin. We met the family out there so we could see the garden.  We gathered in a circle, one of the jurors said a prayer and then we all recited the Lord's prayer together. The family has set up a facebook page, justice for Justin.  One of the things the foundation does is go to schools and churches to talk with kids about the dangers of the internet (Brian Horn pretended to be a 15 year old girl and texted Justin to get him to come meet with him). I'm going to find out more about what they do. Let me know if you want more information about the program and I'll forward it to you. There were also many humorous things that occurred- and that is how we kept our sanity. Brian used a green Action taxi to pick up Justin. When we were driving to Shreveport one night for dinner we passed a green Action taxi on the interstate.  During the crime Brian went to a convenience store at Kickapoo corners needing to get gas (the taxi had run out of gas).  When one of the witnesses there was asked to identify Brian she looked all around the courtroom - including the jury several times before she said she couldn't identify him. We laughed about what would have happened if she had identified one of us. Another witness, who gave Brian a ride said, "if I'd know what he'd done I wouldn't have let him ride in my truck." Grand Cane Baptist church fed us lunch one day. The Catholics on the jury were very impressed with the fried chicken that was served.  I had to explain to them that Baptists ALWAYS have fried chicken for a meal like this. The community and churches in Mansfield were very welcoming to the jury. There were also bittersweet moments like when the defense called Brian's 96 year old grandmother in the penalty phase. She didn't have a clue why she was there. She asked how Brian was. The lawyer pointed out to her where she was sitting. I was glad to find out that, after the jury was out of the room, they did allow her to stop and talk with Brian. I could go on and on about this experience and if you have more questions I will be glad to answer them.  I want to thank everyone for their prayers. They meant more to me than you will ever know. There are some good things that came out of this. One of the jurors who is an atheist began praying for the first time during the trial.  As a final note, during the penalty phase, Justin's mother told us that the Fellowship of Christian Athletes had a Fields of Faith Event for the Desoto Parish schools. Justin attended when he was nine* (and was featured in the FCA magazine). That night Justin accepted Christ has his Savior. I know some of had people I don't know praying for me. Feel free to share this with them if you want to. Becky"

*Note: Justin's mother, Amy Witham Fletcher, says Justin was 12 when he attended the Fields of Faith event. It was held just four months before his death.
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