By Joe Bachman
“I didn’t mean to kill my brother.”
A statement made by then 55-year-old Ronald Horan to police two years ago, hours after allegedly and unintentionally sending his brother down a flight of stairs. Horan is charged with second-degree reckless homicide.
According to police reports, on Aug. 7, 2014, officers were dispatched to the 1100 block of Baker St. regarding a 911 call from Ronald Horan to report a murder. Police arrived to find 52-year-old Tracey Horan, dead and buried in a shallow grave, covered with leaves and debris.
According to Horan, now 57, he was in a verbal altercation with his brother at the time of the incident. The two would argue to the front door of Ronald Horan’s upper-level apartment when Ronald asked Tracey to leave.
Horan slammed the door on his brother, hitting his back and causing him to fall down the stairs. The fall would break Tracey Horan’s neck, fatally wounding him. After hearing a few “thumps”, Ronald Horan opened the door to find Tracey Horan non-responsive at the bottom of the steps.
Ronald claimed to make attempts at resuscitating Tracey, but the attempts failed, and Ronald assumed Tracey dead. After going back upstairs to drink a beer, an hour and a half later, Ronald Horan buried his brother in his backyard. Horan then made a 911 call to report a murder.
“He says, ‘I killed my brother, I pushed him down a flight of stairs'”, said District Attorney Craig Lambert in his opening statements regarding Horan’s own words to police hours after the incident. According to Lambert this case is “straight-forward” and “not complicated”.
According to Horan’s attorney, Gary Kryshak, with no witnesses, and Horan being too intoxicated to be fully aware of his actions, there is room for doubt of Horan’s guilt. Blood tests revealed a blood alcohol level of .182 for Horan.
“That burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Kryshak. “It’s not maybe, it’s not probably, it’s not I think so — they [the brothers] had a drinking problem.”
The state called multiple law enforcement officers at the scene that night, as well as Dane County Medical Examiner Dr. Vincent Tranchida, to confirm the events of the incident.
“It is my medical opinion that Tracey L. Horan died following blunt trauma of his neck, with fracture of his cervical spine, alanto-pccipital dislocation (a severe injury of the upper spine with dislocation between the base of the skull and the beginning of the spine [first cervical vertebea]) and crush injury of the upper cervical spinal cord.” said Tranchida.
Late in the day, Horan took the stand and told the district attorney that contrary to prior statements, he did not push Tracey Horan down the stairs by slamming the door on him. In response to Lambert, Horan hid the body since he believed his ankle bracelet would go off since he buried his brother outside past his curfew, and did not want to go back to prison for violating his probation by drinking.
“I didn’t push him down the stairs.” said Horan. When asked by attorney Kryshak if he still feels guilty for what happened Horan replied “Yes, I do.”
Closing statements will be heard tomorrow and the jury will convene to decide Horan’s fate. He faces up to 25 years imprisonment for the charge of second-degree reckless homicide.