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August 13th, 2003 Nick Budnick | News Stories
 

PIPE NIGHTMARE

Three years ago, Barry Hornstein's world was blown apart. Next month, cops and lawyers will try to put the pieces back together.

     
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Barry Hornstein isn't sure what he thought when he walked outside that morning and saw a length of pipe lying in his Laurelhurst driveway. But he's certain that as he drew back his right leg to knock the metal cylinder out of the way, he did not expect his life to change forever.

The Sept. 27, 2000, explosion propelled fragments of steel, glass and flesh through the air. Chunks of pipe landed hundreds of feet away on the Laurelhurst Elementary School lawn. A piece of flying shrapnel took out a neighbor's window.

Hornstein awoke in a hospital bed. Through a drugged haze he received the news that Legacy Emanuel surgeons would need to amputate his right leg below the knee. But one of the first faces he saw was a spooky, gaunt visage of a black-clad man, with high, hollowish cheekbones framed in whitish-blond hair.

"Oh, my God," Hornstein recalls thinking. "It's the Grim Reaper."

Actually, it was Portland Police detective William Law. He had two questions: Who did this, and why?

Almost three years later, those questions are about to be answered, as lawyers prepare for a criminal trial that will start in three weeks at the courthouse in downtown Portland. Normally, police reports and evidence are not available before trial, and lawyers and police won't comment until the case is resolved. But interviews as well as a 520-page police file from a parallel out-of-town investigation of the suspected bomber provide rare insight into a mystery involving sex, lies, videotape and chat rooms--as well as damning evidence that 12 Portland jurors may never be allowed to see.

In most cases of murder or attempted murder, it's just a matter of figuring out who among the possible suspects was desperate and angry enough to kill. As longtime homicide detective Larry Findling puts it, murder is "the ultimate Ultimate. That's a powerful pissed-off."

Findling, a retired commander for the Portland Police Bureau, cannot recall a single attempted-murder case where the victim and investigators had no idea who might have done it, nor why.

But as Hornstein mulled Law's questions from his hospital bed, he kept coming up empty. He couldn't think of anyone who'd want to harm him or his family. Could it be some sort of a horrible mistake?

Now retired, Law refused to comment on the case, citing the pending trial. But according to police reports and interviews, the 12-year bomb-and-arson detective did the logical thing: He took Hornstein's claim to have no enemies with a grain of salt--and started rooting about for people who might have it out for the Hornstein family.

Neighbors described Barry as a friendly, honest, open, ethical guy. The then-59-year-old Portland native had attended Lincoln High, where he played football with Michael Schrunk, Multnomah County's elected district attorney. He'd had the same job as an insurance agent for more than three decades.

Hornstein is Jewish, but there was no evidence suggesting the bombing was a hate crime. He had lost some serious cash to video poker machines, but he wasn't in hock to any loan sharks. He and his wife had recently separated, but Kathy Hornstein proved to be a gentle soul who had remained close to her husband.

Law next considered Barry's 17-year-old son, Jack--not as a suspect, but as a potential target. He was an introverted teen who liked computers, played linebacker for the Grant High team and dated his share of girls. One student told Law that Jack had begun hanging with the wrong crowd, "cruising" downtown on weekends. A neighbor said Jack had the "usual teenage problems." Jack had egged a friend's house, and his friend had retaliated in kind. There was a paintball incident that stirred up bad blood. A friend had stolen his mother's golf clubs. Jack's car had been broken into. A "neighbor girl" disliked him, as did an ex-girlfriend.

The only thing that seemed outside the range of typical teen drama were the anonymous fliers that had recently appeared on the windshields of cars parked near the school accusing him of raping 13-year-old girls, purportedly from a victim's older brother. But Jack said his only girlfriend was 15 and lived out of state. Many, including Jack, suspected the fliers were the handiwork of his ex-girlfriend--who was not the type to drop a pipe bomb in his driveway.

He took a lie-detector test which showed that, like his father, he had no idea who might hate anyone in the family enough to kill.

Several days after the bombing, however, the mystery deepened. Jack got an anonymous letter from the bomber, saying he was "sorry" for injuring Barry--sorry because the target had really been Jack.

Law now had a likely target of the pipe bomb, but still had no suspect, let alone a clue about motive. That turned up a few days later--some 200 miles northeast of the Hornsteins' Laurelhurst home.

On Oct. 6, 2000, just 11 days after the bombing, Jack headed up in Kennewick, Wash., to visit his girlfriend, Cindy (not her real name).

The two teenagers had met in a Seaside video arcade during coastal vacations with their parents. Cindy's mother immediately took a liking to Jack and his family. "They are very nice people," she told WW.

Divorced and working three jobs at the time, she says she was stretched for time, but her strong-minded, self-possessed, independent daughter seemed to be able to take care of herself. Cindy, an outgoing redhead, was popular and hard-working, a good student and accomplished athlete.

During this weekend visit (in which he slept on the couch), Jack joined in at a family gathering, a world away from the pipebomb as he joined the kids and dogs frolicking in the yard.

The festivities came to an abrupt end, however, at 10 am Sunday, when in a patch of grass next to the basketball hoop, Cindy's brother found a pipe wrapped in duct tape, with a fuse poking out of it and a note attached to it. The note, typed in poor Spanish, said "If you find this, please give it back to Jack Hornstein."

When the Kennewick police showed up, the bomb turned out to be a dummy, containing no gunpowder. But Cindy told them Jack's father had recently been the victim of a real pipe bomb in Portland.

Kennewick detective Ken Taylor led the Washington end of the investigation. The day after the hoax bomb was found, he checked his voicemail and heard an expletive-filled message: a man threatening his life in a fake-sounding Latino accent.

Two days later, Cindy's mom sorted through the mail while she was on the phone with Taylor.

"Oh, my God," she said. It was a letter describing the bombing of Barry Hornstein--and bearing further threats.

"This is to let you know that Jack Hornstein is a marked man. I don't want your daughter to get hurt, but what happens will happen."

The concerned mother promptly told Cindy she didn't want her seeing Jack anymore. She wasn't the only one scared. Back in Portland, it finally dawned on Barry that whoever was out to get Jack was not going away. "That's when I freaked out," he recalls. "You have a notion that someone is out to kill your 17-year-old son--and you have no idea why. The police are not able to put 24-hour surveillance on the house, and you're in the hospital, bedridden--what can you do?"

As it turned out, Cindy and several classmates had received emails badmouthing Jack, but she told police she had no idea where they might have come from. Over the next two weeks, clues started pointing to Northwest Washington. First, an email received by Cindy's classmate, apparently from the bomber, was traced to an Internet service provider in Emery, Wash.

Then, an email sent to one of Jack's classmates regarding Jack's alleged sex with 13-year-olds was tracked to an AOL account. The registration was to a Florida mailing address, but the credit card that paid for the account belonged to a resident of Port Orchard, Wash., a small town on Puget Sound near Canada.

Finally, 27 days after Barry Hornstein's world blew up, the police finally had the name of a suspect: Timothy Michael Goff.

Questioned by police, Cindy said the only Tim she had dated was some high-school kid from Canyon Lakes the year before. But he'd moved, and she didn't know where he lived.

The cops, meanwhile, found Goff a surprising suspect. The 41-year-old Oregon native (he attended Molalla High in the late '70s), whose brother is a Portland city planner, had no criminal record. He made good money--$30 an hour--working as a pipefitter installing indoor sprinkler systems. He'd been married and had a 22-year-old daughter. He and his wife had built a quarter-million-dollar home in Spokane, though he now lived in Port Orchard.

Law hopped in his car and paid Goff a visit. The bearded, stocky former Portlander admitted trading emails with Cindy but said that was their only contact.

Unconvinced, Law persuaded a Port Orchard judge to issue a search warrant for Goff's apartment that same day.

Inside, police found some possible evidence: wires, a pipe wrench, a battery and a sophisticated computer setup, as well as a Ruger .45-caliber automatic. In his wallet they found notes suggesting that he was tracking Jack Hornstein and Cindy's family. They also found pornography, ropes, a bag of tampons and two videotapes under Goff's bed.

Law asked Goff whether there was anyone on the videotapes he would know, and Goff replied, "Not unless you know one of my old girlfriends."

When pressed, Goff admitted Cindy was on the tapes. Indeed, they showed the then-14-year-old and the middle-aged man having sex--including bondage-type sex.

Taylor called Cindy and her mother into the police station and told the girl he knew she'd had an affair with Goff, now their prime suspect in the case. According to her mother, Cindy burst out crying and tried to run out of the room. "I was shocked. She was never a wild kid--you would never have expected this out of her," her mother told WW.

Cindy told police she'd broken up with Goff in April 2000, explaining that "Tim had stronger feelings for me than I had for him."

Back in Portland, police searched Goff's hard drive and found evidence strongly indicating that he was behind the campaign of threats and smears against Jack, as well as the bombs left in Kennewick and Laurelhurst. The notes apparently were designed to cause Cindy's mom and Jack's parents to put a halt to their relationship. "You would think you could find some nice girl your own age," Goff wrote in one note, "instead of messing around with little girls that don't know better and listen to your lies."

Now police had not only a suspect, they had the time-honored motive of a jilted lover's rage.

Within a week, after cops had gathered more evidence and obtained an arrest warrant, Goff was behind bars.

Washington officials prosecuted him for child-rape (since the law regards minors as incapable of giving consent, all underage sex with an adult is regarded as rape). He pleaded guilty to two counts and was sentenced to 26 months.

Multnomah County prosecutors, meanwhile, obtained a 16-count indictment against Goff on March 12, 2001, focusing on the attempted murder.

As investigators put the Portland case together, a clearer picture of what happened emerged.

Cindy had spent much of her freshman year surfing the Web at a friend's house, making contact with several older men who became pen pals and sometimes more.

In October 1999, she encountered Goff in an AOL chat room. Goff, who'd claimed to be single and 30, told police Cindy claimed to be 18 (she admits saying 16). For their first in-person date, Goff said, he pulled up outside her house, she hopped in, and they went straight to a room at the Best Western to have sex.

Over the next five months he bought her flowers, jewelry and clothing, according to police reports. She told one friend that her new boyfriend was 19. He, meanwhile, told his landlord he had a girlfriend in Kennewick and might move to be near her.

Goff had moved to Port Orchard following his separation from his wife in early 1999. His landlord, Bruce Manfred, told police that Goff was a quiet loner who spent all his time when not at work inside his apartment with the shades drawn. Billing records obtained by police showed that he spent hours each day surfing the Web. Inside Goff's apartment, police found a trove of porn showing teenage-looking girls.

In an Oct. 30, 2000, interview with police, Cindy admitted she and Goff had stayed friends even after she started dating Jack, and she said she'd unwittingly been feeding him information he'd used to stalk her and the Hornsteins. ("He acted totally normal. He played it off really well," Cindy told WW.) But she started suspecting Goff of the Laurelhurst bombing in mid-October. She said some emails sent to her friends regarding Jack contained information she'd told Goff and no one else, and she recognized his handwriting on some of the threatening notes sent to her family.

"It just seems as if he became completely infatuated with this girl through the Internet, and everything just snowballed from there--his life really unraveled as a result," says Scott Johnson, the Benton County, Wash., prosecutor who handled the child-rape charges against Goff.

Except for the bombing, the story almost seems cliché these days: A seemingly normal but secretly depraved middle-aged married guy with a high-paying job suddenly throws it all away for a relationship with a 14-year-old girl he met on the Internet.

Kevin Holt, the Kennewick defense lawyer who defended Goff against the child-rape charges, says this case is both simpler and more complicated than that.

"He was in a midlife crisis. He was just out of a long-term relationship with his wife. And he gets hit on by this attractive younger woman who will sexually do anything and fulfill any fantasy," says Holt, a former prosecutor. If one believed her claim to be 18, he says, "It's kind of every guy's dream. I think the sex was so good it clouded his judgment--if he did it. I'm not saying he did."

But Cynthia Steinhauser, a licensed social worker who heads the Sexual Abuse Clinic in Portland, says it is Goff, not the girl, who bears full responsibility. While it's normal for older men and younger women to be attracted to one another, those impulses need to be repressed when the age difference is so great as to create a power imbalance. She says Goff should have recognized that Cindy's sexual appetite "was not normal for a 14-year-old girl."

"He exploited her vulnerabilities," she says. "He used her and he abused her."

Today, Cindy, a recent high-school graduate, has obtained a college scholarship and hopes to become a schoolteacher. She and Jack continued dating for a year after the bombing but no longer keep in touch. She is now engaged and, with her fiancé, "goes to church every Sunday," her mother says.

Jack, meanwhile, works in Portland Public Schools as a teacher's aide for troubled kids. He is studying law enforcement at Portland Community College and hopes to be a cop.

Barry Hornstein, for his part, is amazingly upbeat. His prosthetic foot and ankle do not bother him, he says, though he admits, "Some things can be more awkward, like just walking on the beach, which I used to like to do. It's not as comfortable moving on an artificial limb as it is to have your own limb. But it's a good alternative."

Hornstein says that, in an odd way, he feels lucky. "I look at what could have happened, compared to what did happen," he says. "I'd rather be alive and lose a leg than be dead. I didn't lose my ability to think and do a lot of things." He says his outlook was helped by his experience in rehabilitation after the explosion.

"If anyone thinks they have it rough, go to a rehab center and see what real tragedy is," he says. "I saw people there with serious brain injuries, and [others] who are virtually 100 percent paralyzed."

He and his wife have gotten back together, and their voices turn warm when the topic of their marriage comes up. The bomb, says Barry, "made our family stronger, for want of a better word."

While Hornstein has adapted remarkably to his physical injuries, he admits that his worldview is permanently damaged and more fearful.

For instance, about a year after the bombing, long after Goff was in jail, he approached his car in a parking lot and saw a brown paper bag sitting on the ground next to it. He called security to have them move it--and it turned out to contain only a few empty bottles. While that fear may subside over time, another source of anxiety could be resolved in the next few weeks.

The attempted-murder case will hinge on evidence that police found in Goff's apartment, and especially on the computer hard drive. That evidence includes bomb-making information and schematics, as well as copies of several threatening letters, including the note in Spanish attached to the hoax bomb and the threatening note Cindy's mom received afterward. The letters showed the author to have intimate knowledge of how the bomb that removed Barry's foot was constructed.

The evidence seemingly would make it a slam-dunk case, but the jury may never get to see it.

On Aug. 1, Goff's attorneys, Greg Silver and Stephen Williams of Metropolitan Public Defenders, filed a 33-page brief in an attempt to have the evidence from Goff's apartment, including the computer, thrown out. They argued that police did not follow the correct procedure for the search warrant, forgot to obtain explicit permission to seize the computer, and failed to obtain a second warrant to justify delving into the hard drive.

Silver, Williams and prosecutor Ethan Knight all declined to comment. But legal experts asked to review Silver's memo said it looks like Goff's lawyers have a decent shot. "The search-warrant affidavit seems to me to be pretty sketchy, based on what I've seen," says Susan Mandiberg, a former public defender who is now a law professor at Lewis & Clark Law School, after reading the defense brief.

If the motion succeeds, and the evidence linking Goff's computer to the smear campaign and bombing are removed from the jury's considerations, then the case becomes far more circumstantial. If all goes Silver's way, Goff could leave the downtown Justice Center as a free man.

That would perhaps be the biggest injury to Barry Hornstein, an old-fashioned, hard-working guy who has always placed his trust in the system. "I have faith in the courts, OK?" he says, in a combative tone that seems directed as much at himself as at a reporter, because he then admits that his faith lately has been wavering.

"That's my fear: that the guy will get off on a technicality."


The Laurelhurst bomb that injured Barry Hornstein generated a few calls to Portland's bomb squad, but nothing compared to the full-blown scare that arose two months later after a Labrador in Southeast Portland picked up a bomb disguised as a tennis ball. Police never found that bomb-maker.

 

 

 

The Portland Police Bureau's 15-member bomb squad is activated an average of 47 times each month, down from a peak of 84 in October 2001.

 

 

 

 

Investigators believe the bomb Barry Hornstein kicked had been affixed to Jack Hornstein's car using magnets, but fell to the ground without detonating.

 

 

 

 

Timothy Goff's ex-wife, Patti, could not be located for this article, and messages left with acquaintances were not returned. Goff's parents, who live in Beavercreek, Ore., declined to comment.

 

 

 

 

While in jail in Benton County, Goff reportedly made statements to another inmate indicating inside knowledge of the bombing. One police report said the inmate "has become a valuable witness."

 

 

 

 

A former co-worker of Goff's, Gordon Swanson, told WW that Goff seemed like a normal guy, but his obsessive streak showed when he talked about being laid off months earlier. "He couldn't let it go," says Swanson.

 
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