In April 1999, Greg Lance was arrested for a double homicide in Cookeville, Tennessee. He was found guilty by a jury and is serving to two concurrent life sentences. The evidence presented at trial was either false, jailhouse statements or circumstantial. Soon after his wrongful conviction, his daughter was born. In the 20 years that Greg has been imprisoned, he has had to watch his daughter grow up from behind jail walls. To date, all efforts to exonerate him have failed. This is the story of his innocence.
Most recently, Greg’s case has piqued the interest of Rabia O’Chaudry, lawyer/creator for Undisclosed Podcast. Undisclosed is compiled of three attorneys, Rabia, Collin Miller and Susan Simpson, who investigate wrongful convictions and the U.S. criminal justice system by taking a closer look at the its investigation, the trial, and finding new evidence that never made it to court.
Now in their fourth season and already yielding more than 7 million downloads, the team of investigative lawyers have highlighted every detail in the case The State v. Greg Lance. The twelve-episode series covers everything from Greg’s alibi to details about who may actually be responsible for the murder of Victor and Alla Kolesnikow.
In a 1998 investigation of the double murder of Victor and Alla Kolesnikow, a Ukrainian couple known locally for owning and financing property, pointed to a few likely suspects. Oddly enough, only one of the suspects was ever arrested –– Greg Lance, the 26-year-old property manager of the Ford Mobile Home Park.
Greg was working to fully acquire the park from the Kolesnikows using owner’s financing. A few months prior to their deaths, the couple decided to foreclose the property and regain ownership, leading investigators to believe that Greg had a motive.
Living in the home directly across the street from the Kolesnikows was a couple and their daughter –– Sam, Peggy and Samantha Horn. Like Greg, the Horn family was purchasing their property from Victor and Alla. Neighboring the Horn residence was James and David Redmon, the brothers of Peggy Horn, who were also purchasing their property from the Kolesnikows through owner financing.
According to a former Putnam County Sheriff's deputy, on August 3, 1998, Victor Kolesnikow swore out a warrant against David Redmon. The deputy served the warrant the next day, August 4th. In the early morning hours of August 5th, Victor and Alla were found dead in their home, shot multiple times and burnt beyond recognition. James Redmon placed the 911 call at 3:30 a.m. on August 5th, 1998.
The State Fire Marshall, Phillip Gentry, used a K-9 unit to search the burnt home. The dog indicated that gasoline residue was present so arson was immediately suspected. Seven shell casings were also found.
Almost two months later, a Tec 9 mm pistol was found about a mile from the crime scene on the passenger side of the road. It was determined by the crime lab to be the same weapon that was used to fire the seven shell casings found in the victim’s home.
According to Putnam County Sherriff's Department documents, on the same day the gun was found, Sam Horn gave a statement to police and drew a picture of a Tec 9 mm pistol claiming it was in the possession of Claude Wright. While Wright was one of the last people to see Victor Kolesnikow on August 4, 1998, he was never considered a suspect or a witness by the police.
The most damaging witnesses were former friends and co-workers, Mike Snow, Eric Tanner, and Keith Herbstreith.
Eric Tanner testified that prior to the murders, Greg asked him to find a “hot” gun but when initially questioned in the investigation, he never mentioned this encounter. The TBI record of Eric's lie detector test was never brought to light.
Keith Herbstreith testified that three weeks prior to the murders, Greg asked if he knew anyone who would kill for hire. Keith failed his lie detector test and later recanted his statement to Greg's mother, Joyce.
A man who had recently begun working for Greg named Mike Snow was jailed for a domestic violence charge. From his jail cell, he gave a statement to police that Greg asked him to find a hitman. He was later released for his statement and testified at trial. Following the wrongful conviction, a friend of Greg's asked Mike Snow why he made those false statements. Mike’s response: “The day I signed that statement against Greg, they let me out of jail. What will Lances' parents do for me if I change my statement?”
During a motion for a new trial, Greg's attorney called on one of Sam Horn's acquaintances as a witness. Chris Henry testified that in a conversation with Sam Horn, Sam told him the way to take care of snitches was to knock on their front door, shoot them, burn their house down and leave. According to Henry, sometime prior to testifying, Sam threatened to kill him due to an argument over drugs. When asked if he had ever seen a Tec 9 at Sam Horn’s house, he testified that he had not only seen one but also shot Sam’s Tec 9.
In 2012, the Justice For Greg Lance team spoke to one of the individuals selected as a juror in Greg's trial. According to this juror, the jury as a whole did not believe Greg actually committed the crimes but nevertheless voted guilty because they thought he at least knew who actually committed the crimes. This particular juror felt that Greg was not guilty. The former juror stated, “They deliberated for hours and couldn’t reach a verdict.” In order to break the deadlock, the jury agreed to be bound by a majority vote. This juror, along with two other jurors, have expressed their belief that Greg should be granted a new trial.
Following Greg's wrongful conviction, his family hired a retired FBI agent to assist in investigating. Through his investigation, he obtained statements from several witnesses present at the Horn residence on August 4, 1998, or who had personal knowledge of events surrounding the murders.
According to the statements taken by the private investigator, Billy Cleghorn was present at the Horn residence between 3:30 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. on August 5, 1998. When he pulled into Sam’s driveway, the fire was burning at the Kolesnikows’ home. Sam came out of the house and instructed him to leave as the police were on their way. Cleghorn stated that Sam looked crazy and had been awake for some time from taking meth.
Sometime shortly after the murders, Sam, Peggy, Samantha, Billy Cleghorn, and friends Lacy and Jenny Harness left the Horn residence on Poplar Grove Road and moved to Jackie Cleghorn’s residence near Austin Bottom. While at the residence, Peggy began crying and talking about dead people, leaving her blouse behind, and a gun with a flashlight hooked to see better in the dark. Sam told Billy that Peggy was crazy and out of her head on drugs.
According to Billy, Samantha told him that her mother, Peggy, had gone over to the Kolesnikows earlier in the day on August 4, 1998, and unlocked the bathroom window. Billy claims that when she woke up between 1:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. on August 5th, she noticed the lights on at Victor’s and Alla’s house and recalled hearing gunshots. Upon hearing the shots, Samantha got scared and went into her residence. She further stated her parents came in the house soon after, smelling like gasoline, carrying an assortment of items.
Jackie Cleghorn told the investigator that he and his wife, Rachel, stayed at the Horn residence for 3 to 4 months in the summer of 1998. Jackie claims that during that time, Sam and Peggy Horn got behind in making their payments to Victor Kolesnikow.
Sometime prior to the murders, Jackie and Rachel moved to an apartment primarily because of arguments with Sam and Peggy. According to Jackie, after Peggy accused Rachel of trying to frame Sam, the argument got heated and Sam put a gun in Jackie’s mouth. Cleghorn noted that he knew Sam was a dangerous man.
Rachel Cleghorn is Sam Horn’s niece and Jackie Cleghorn's wife. She stated that she and Jackie stayed at the Horn residence in June and July of 1998. According to Rachel, during this time there was tension between Sam Horn and Victor Kolesnikow over a well pump. The Cleghorn's moved out in July but the day following the murders they visited the Horn residence to find out what happened. Rachel claims that Peggy was unsettled and stated that she could not stay there any longer and it was not safe for her and Samantha to be there. The witness states that Peggy talked about moving far away so she could be someone else because she was feeling responsible for things. When Rachel asked what she meant, Peggy went from crying to yelling. Sam came into the room, grabbed her arm and said, “Shut up Peg, you’re talking out of your head. Do you want to go for a walk? Maybe you want to go to the creek.” Rachel took that statement as Sam threating to kill her and leave her there.
Lacy Harness told the private investigator he has no personal knowledge that Sam and Peggy committed the murders, but stated it was of his opinion that Sam Horn was responsible. Harness feels that the murders occurred over the land Sam Horn was buying from Victor and Alla. The said property was compromised of three parcels. One parcel was the Horn residence (about 16 acres) and the other two parcels consisted of properties with a trailer on each belonging to Peggy’s brothers, David and James Redmon who were also working to buy from the Kolesnikows. Harness stated that the brothers were making payments on the property but when David couldn’t meet the required payments, he would make up the difference by mowing Victor’s yard or helping him around the house. Harness also stated that Sam and Peggy Horn were way behind in their payments to Victor.
The day before the murders, Harness places himself at the Horn residence. He recalls that Jackie and Rachel Cleghorn arrived at the Horn residence around 5:00 p.m. Billy Cleghorn arrived between 5:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Harness claims he was awake until about 10:30 p.m. or 11:00 p.m. on the night of August 4, 1998. When he woke, he was on the couch and noticed that Sam was entering from the back of the house. He was in his underwear and in the process of taking off a green sweatshirt. Sam looked out the window of the house and told Harness that Victor’s house was on fire. According to Harness, he believes that the shower was running when Sam woke him. He didn’t see Peggy but assumed that it was possible that she was taking a shower.
Harness stated that sometime after the murders he and the Horns stayed with Jackie and Rachel Cleghorns. Harness’s sister, Jenny, told him that Peggy admitted she did the killing and Sam burnt the house down. Harness claimed that he told Detective Burgess of the Putnam County Sherriff's Office that he did not believe Lance committed the murders.
Paula Lacommare was interviewed twice by the private investigator, the first time in November 1999 and the second time in June 2006.
Paula did not know Victor and Alla but learned of their murders from her mother who had read it in the paper. Paula’s mother was a real estate agent and had previously shown property to Victor and Alla.
Paula’s first contact with Sam was in July 1999 when she visited the Horn residence. She did not return there until October 1999 when she went with Billy Cleghorn to pick up some of his personal items from the Horn residence. Paula stated that Cleghorn formerly lived at the Horn residence. She said during the time she was involved with individuals who spent time at the Horn residence, she frequently heard comments made about Sam
Horn being crazy and a murderer.
Paula met Samantha Horn through Billy Cleghorn. Billy moved out of the Horn residence in the middle of August 1999. Cleghorn said that he left after he woke up at the Horn residence and Sam was pointing a gun at him. Horn accused Cleghorn of stealing property from him, more specifically red phosphorus.
Paula recounted that her friend Mike Henry, who worked on junk cars for Sam Horn, came by her residence in August of 1998, prior to the murders. Henry told her he just came from the Horn residence and heard Sam made the statement that he was going to kill the "foreigners". Horn said he was tired of them “geeking” on him and always meddling.
In her second interview, Paula explained that she had not been completely truthful with the private investigator nor the two agents from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation who interviewed her. Paula claimed that she was telling the truth on the date of her second interview.
In her second interview, Paula said that in September 1999 Samantha Horn was at her residence on South Meade. Paula says that all of the statements made by Samantha occurred somewhere between midnight and daylight. Paula said that they were talking about Jesus and Samantha asked her if she knew something bad would she have to tell it. Paula told her that it was between her and Jesus. Paula says that Samantha then became emotional and started crying. Samantha then stated that everyone thinks her dad is bad but that her mother is just as bad. She then stated that her mom and one of her dad’s “emps” went to the residence and "killed those people". Lacommare said Samantha used “emps” to refer to individuals that worked for her dad. Samantha never identified the “emp.” Samantha stated the bathroom window was unlocked at the residence. Samantha said her mom let the “emp” in and she "killed the people". Samantha did not mention anything about how the people were killed.
In summary, the post-trial witness's all tell a similar story. These witnesses were spoken to separately and at different times yet corroborate each other’s stories to be true. These statements contain much more detail about the Horn residence on the night prior, the morning of, and the days following. The dynamics between the individuals in the Horn’s inner circle are clearly defined, as well as the fear that Sam instilled in those around him.
Through the new witness statments,it is clear that sometime on August 4th, Sam and Peggy Horn went to the Kolesnikows’ home and Peggy requested permission to use their bathroom. While in the bathroom, Peggy unlocked the bathroom window. The Horns returned to the Kolesnikow’s in the early morning hours of August 5th and entered through the unlocked window killing Victor and Alla Kolesnikow. The Justice For Greg Lance team believes that Sam and Peggy Horn should be reconsidered as suspects in the murder of Victor and Alla Kolesnikow. While Sam Horn died on December 26, 2002, Peggy is still at large somewhere in the southern United States running from her guilt.
The justice system may have failed Greg by convicting an innocent man but it can only move forward by correcting the mistake. If you have any information that would be helpful in my case, please contact Joyce Argo, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have spent everything I have to pay for lawyers and investigators in an effort to prove my innocence. My family and I appreciate any help that you may have to offer. Thank you.