A 20-year-old Brownsville man could stand trial in June on a capital murder charge for the stabbing death of Barry T. Horn, the late executive director of the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art.
However, that date could change depending on whether the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office receives forensic evidence back from a crime lab that it needs to prosecute the case, authorities said.
A trial date was discussed on Thursday, during Ernesto Ivan Martinez’s formal arraignment on the capital murder charge. Martinez is accused of stabbing Horn, 59, multiple times in October of last year.
During his arraignment before 404th state District Judge Elia Cornejo-Lopez, who read the charges against him, Martinez pleaded innocent.
When asked how he wished to plea, Martinez replied: “Not guilty your honor.”
Martinez is represented by court-appointed defense attorney Alfredo Padilla, who at one time worked for the district attorney’s office.
State prosecutor Pete Gilman said the district attorney’s office is still waiting for the forensic evidence to be returned from the crime lab and anticipated starting the trial in the summer. A pre-trial date has been set for June 3, with a tentative trial date scheduled for June 14.
Thursday’s court proceedings lasted about five minutes.
Martinez was indicted last month on one count of capital murder.
The indictment reads Martinez “intentionally caused the death of Horn by stabbing him with a knife or other sharp object."
Martinez could face the death penalty if convicted. He is currently detained without bond at Carrizales-Rucker Detention Center.
Horn was found dead in his Brownsville home Oct. 24, the same day a museum gala had been scheduled. A co-worker discovered his body after Horn failed to appear at the museum to help with event preparations.
A preliminary autopsy report stated that a forensic pathologist found a minimum of “77 sharp force wounds” to the body, 54 of those "significantly" perforated the skin while 23 were superficial.
Investigators at the scene of the crime said Horn’s gray 2008 Hyundai Sonata was missing from his home as were several other personal items.
Mexican authorities later detained Martinez in Matamoros. He was turned over to Brownsville police Oct. 26 after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers took him into custody on a warrant charging him with theft of Horn’s vehicle. On the following day, he was charged with one count of murder, one count of motor vehicle theft and one count of burglary.
Brownsville police have portrayed Martinez as Horn’s former partner, although friends have denied the claims saying the relationship was strictly paternal.
Horn came to the position at the museum in January 2009 after more than 20 years of varied professional experience, including working as one of the TV hosts of “Good Morning Houston” and later executive director of the South Texas Symphony Association Inc.
Horn also served as associate vice president for development at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.