If you kill someone in Texas, the remains are your property
Killer refuses to release boy's remains for burial
TYLER, Texas -- A convicted murderer being held in Atlanta is refusing to sign a waiver the district attorney says it needs to release the remains of an 8-year-old East Texas boy.
Without the waiver, the family of Chad Choice cannot hold a funeral, although the boy was killed more than a decade ago.
Patrick Horn's attorney has made repeated efforts over the past month to get the man now serving a life federal prison sentence in Georgia for unrelated crimes to sign the waiver.
But those efforts have been ignored, and state District Judge Diane DeVasto could use videoconferencing equipment installed this week to ask Horn if he objects to the release of his victim's remains.
Chad was shot in 1991, and buried in a shallow grave behind a house where Horn's family lived. Horn then tormented the Choice family for years, sending ransom notes and placing Chad's skull on the doorstep of the Choices' home on the fourth anniversary of the boy's disappearance.
The boy's fate wasn't revealed until 1996 while Horn was in Smith County Jail serving time for other crimes.
The waiver is necessary because the body parts were found five years after the boy's death, and those remains were crucial evidence used to convict Horn.
A jury sentenced him to death for Chad's murder.
Horn had signed a waiver, indicating he did not object to the release of Chad Choice's bones. But the document was lost somewhere between his attorney's office and the judge's office.
In what initially appeared to be a formality, DeVasto announced in a December hearing that she would order the release of 30 exhibits, including Chad's skull and other bones, to his family for burial after Horn signs another waiver.
Horn's appellate lawyer, Toby Wilkinson of Greenville, sent Horn the document via Federal Express and expected it back in a day with a signature.
But a month has gone by, and Horn has not answered several letters from his attorney and messages to him through officials at the Atlanta federal prison, court officials said.
Assistant District Attorney Ed Marty said if the remains are granted without the waiver, they may have to be exhumed sometime in the future.
Marty said Thursday he fears Horn, deemed a psychopath and sociopath by experts, realized the importance of the waiver after the first one was lost and is using it as a control factor.
"The last thing this family needs, or the district attorney's office needs, is to have him interfere with the release of those remains," Marty told the Tyler Morning Telegraph in Friday's editions. "We have found ourselves in a very, very strange position where the sociopath basically has all the cards."
Karen Choice has declined to make any public comments until after she buries her youngest child.