Editor’s note: This story includes details about an attempted rape incident that some people may find upsetting. If you or someone you know has been domestically or sexually assaulted, contact the police or the Tompkins County Advocacy Center. The center provides free services for people of any race, ability, religion, immigration status, gender identity or sexual orientation. The 24-hour hotline is (607) 277-5000 and more information about the center can be found here.
ITHACA, N.Y. – The woman who has accused Jeffrey Horton of physically and sexually assaulting her took the stand Friday. She was one of the first witnesses prosecutors called as the trial officially got underway. She described escalating hostility from Horton in the days leading up to his two hour attack in March 2015.
Under direct examination by Assistant District Attorney Diane Lama, the woman described her attempts to end her relationship with Horton in the weeks leading up to when she said Horton assaulted and raped her in her home in March 2015. The two had been dating for about eight months when she decided to stop seeing Horton and started pulling away, she told the jury.
Between March 20 and March 24, the defendant sent the victim numerous text messages that were shown to the jury Friday. The woman testified that over those few days, the defendant’s demeanor toward her “totally changed … it went from, ‘I’m sorry, I miss you,’ to, ‘That’s it, we’re done.’” She said his messages were “totally rude, disrespectful, degrading.”
The woman testified that the weekend in question began with the defendant confronting her on Friday evening. She said that after a brief encounter at her workplace he showed up uninvited at her home. “He stormed in and said, ‘I’m done with you, you’re a lying whore,’” she testified.
She said she locked herself in the bathroom of her house and heard him packing some of his belongings into a trash bag. The defendant did not live with the woman, but had a key to her home. Midway through the Friday evening confrontation, she said, he threw the key and said their relationship was done. She said she wedged a kitchen chair under the front door knob that evening in case he had made a duplicate key.
Lama and the witness painted a picture of an erratic but heated feud between the woman and defendant over the next few days. On Saturday morning the defendant apologized for the past night’s conduct and followed through on a commitment to bring the woman’s daughter to a recreational class, the witness testified. She agreed to loan him a house key so that he could use a hot tub they had jointly purchased while she was at work, she said.
These calm exchanges, however, were followed by hostile messages. “You’re a weekend girl not a relationship girl,” one message from Horton read. “Take your pimple covered body down to Binghamton and go f—,” read another. All texts between the two from March 20 until March 24, the date of the alleged assault, were entered into evidence for the jury to review.
On Monday, March 23, the woman testified that Horton texted her to ask he could stop by her home to deliver a letter. “Don’t stop here,” she texted him. He did come by the house, she said, leaving a letter in her car that the prosecution entered into evidence. After reading the letter, the woman texted Horton, “You are nuts. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Yes… LEAVE ME ALONE.”
The woman testified that conflict escalated throughout March 24 before the alleged assault took place that night. She said she went to her workplace to see a friend that evening, even though she did not have a shift. Horton showed up there but did not interact with her. Shortly after he left, Dryden police arrived and said they’d received a report of a woman who was drunk and planning to drive. The prosecution said this call was placed by Horton to falsely accuse the woman.
The first person who testified Friday was a man who worked at the Tompkins County Dispatch Center, who confirmed the call to 911 took place. The audio from the call was also played to the jury.
The woman soon went to her house with her friend, where she said both received numerous calls from Horton that they did not answer. The woman responded to some of his text messages, including repeatedly writing “leave me alone.” She said she and her friend checked that her front and back door were locked before the friend left and the woman went to sleep around 10 p.m.
She woke up about an hour later to Horton standing in her bedroom, she testified. She recalled saying, “What are you doing, how did you get in my house?” and said he told her to shut up before physically attacking her. She detailed how he tied her hands with rope, hit, slapped and bit her, and penetrated her with a vibrator and his penis. Throughout the assault, she said, she was yelling, “Stop, you’re hurting me,” and crying.
In the early morning hours of March 25, Horton turned himself in to state police and admitted to slapping and hitting the woman “for 10 to 15 seconds,” according to the prosecution.
The woman reported the assault to the police as well, but did not say she had been raped at that time. “I was absolutely petrified,” she said when asked why she did not mention the alleged rape initially.
One day later, the woman said she woke up before dawn crying “and thought I cannot keep this burden. He is an absolute monster and did horrible things to me. I cannot keep it in anymore, it has to be told.” She said she wrote down her recollections of the attack and provided this written account to the Dryden police.
After reporting to police that she was raped, the woman underwent a Sexual Assault Nurse Examination and received treatment for injuries to her head and face from her primary care physician. She testified that she was unable to work her full-time job for about five weeks due to headaches, ear ringing, dizziness and nausea.
After about two hours of testimony on direct examination, the woman faced a cross-examination from defense attorney Kristine Shaw. During the examination, the defense attempted to highlight some inconsistencies between the victim’s current testimony and her testimony two years ago in the previous trial.
Shaw asked the witness to confirm details like the type of jacket the defendant was wearing when the assault began, the drawer in the nightstand where the vibrator was kept and whether she knew the length of the rope the defendant used to tie her wrists. The witness testified Friday that the defendant had been wearing a black leather jacket, but testified in 2016 that he had been wearing a black Carhart jacket, Shaw showed. The witness said she could not recall or did not have direct knowledge of other details.
Shaw challenged the woman’s credibility by questioning her about her drinking on the night of the alleged assault. The woman testified on direct and cross examination that she had about three beers before going home that evening.
Shaw questioned the timing of how the woman reported the alleged assault, confirming that she did not mention rape or sexual assault when first speaking with police or in the first police report that was recorded.
Shaw brought up past arguments between the woman and Horton, as well as civil text messages during the weekend in question, to suggest that erratic disputes were normal between the two.
In addition to questioning the credibility of the witness, Shaw raised issues with the police investigation that followed her report. She asked whether the police collected the clothes the woman was wearing during the alleged assault or the bed sheets from her room, and the witness said they did not. She asked whether the police searched the household trash for cigarettes Horton allegedly smoked on the night in question, and the witness testified that she did not know. Shaw asked whether the witness told the police that she had showered before her SANE exam, and the witness said she could not recall speaking to police about the matter but that she did shower before the exam.
Friday’s session adjourned after both sides finished questioning the woman. Trial will resume at 9 a.m. on Monday, with the prosecution calling additional witnesses to the stand.
Check back for updates throughout the trial at this link.