My name is Gregory Lance. In April 1999, I was arrested for two murders I did not commit. I was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to two concurrent life sentences. To date, all efforts to exonerate me have failed. The evidence presented at trial against me was either false or circumstantial. It seems that you cannot pick up a newspaper or log onto the internet today without reading about another innocent person being exonerated after spending years in prison for a crime he or she did not commit. It is the same story over and over. Except for the part about being exonerated, my story is much the same.
This case is about a Russian couple who were murdered, and whose home was burglarized and burnt down in Cookeville, Tennessee on August 5, 1998, and my fight to prove I did not do it. The prosecution’s theory of the case was that I committed these murders in retaliation for the victims, Victor and Alla Kolesnikow, foreclosing on a trailer park that I had purchased from them.
Living in the home directly across the street from Victor and Alla Kolesnikow were a couple and their daughter, Sam, Peggy and Samantha Horn. Like myself, Sam and Peggy were also purchasing their property from Victor and Alla. Next door to the Horn’s lived James Redmon (brother of Peggy Horn), together with his wife/girlfriend. James Redmon and his brother David were also purchasing property from Victor and Alla. On August 3rd 1998, Victor Kolesnikow swore out a warrant against David Redmon, brother of James Redmon and Peggy Horn. A Putnam County Sheriff’s deputy served the warrant the next day, August 4th. Before the sun rose on August 5th, Victor and his wife Alla lay dead in their home, having been shot multiple times and burnt beyond recognition. James Redmon is the individual who placed the 911 call at 3:30 a.m. on August 5th, 1998.
From what we have been able to glean from witness accounts of what happened, sometime during the day on August 4, 1998, Sam and Peggy Horn went to the Kolesnikows’ home and Peggy Horn requested permission to use their bathroom. While in the bathroom, Peggy unlocked the bathroom window so that she and Sam could reenter the home to kill the Kolesnikows. In the early morning hours of August 5th, the Horns returned to the Kolesnikow’s home. After committing the murders, Sam and Peggy searched the Kolesnikows home for their safe and other valuables before setting their home on fire. 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 bullets/shell casings were found. Bullet projectiles and fragments were found in the bodies.
After the fire was put out, law enforcement began a search for the weapon used in the murders. They searched the roadside leading back to town but found nothing. A dive team was called out to search the river the road crosses but still nothing was found. About a month and a half later, a Tec 9mm 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 victims’ home. The same day the gun was found, Sam Horn gave a statement to police and drew a picture of a weapon he said he saw in the possession of Claude Wright. Wright was one of the last people to see Victor Kolesnikow on August 4, 1998, but was never considered a suspect or a witness by the police. Sam Horn’s drawing was a duplicate of the murder weapon that was recovered by law enforcement.
According to the prosecution and the ATF officers who investigated this case, the murder weapon was bought new from Bend of the River Gun Shop where an individual by the name of James Myers worked. The state’s case rested in part on the assumption that the murderer sought and used a stolen gun. According to an affidavit signed by Mr. Myers on May 20, 2012, the prosecution was aware that Mr. Myers sold Sam Horn stolen guns. The prosecution’s theory at trial as to the ownership history of the murder weapon was that it was stolen from Robert Sheppard. According to Myers, at one time, Sam Horn’s place of business was “right before you get to Bob (Robert) Sheppard’s house and business.” Mr. Myers further states that a Tec 9mm gun uses 9mm ammunition and that he sold Sam Horn 9mm ammunition. Mr. Myers further states that “Most everyone that knows Sam Horn knows he is a killer. Everyone was afraid of him because they know he would not hesitate to kill them if they ever crossed him.” And, “It is common knowledge among the people that know him that Horn killed the Russian couple that lived across the road from him.”
While much of what happened that night remains a mystery, the following is a summary of my trial and many of the facts that have come to light since that fateful night.
I was tried in October 1999. As you would expect, the prosecution called as witnesses members of the Putnam County Sheriff’s office, bomb and arson investigators, and members of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation who were actively involved in the investigation at the scene of the murders, at the Heron farm, and also those who participated in the laboratory testing of various items. The investigation revealed that the Kolesnikows were killed with a Tec 9 and then their house was burnt with them in it. A 9 mm Ruger was also recovered and tested at TBI’s laboratory.
At trial, the most damaging witnesses against me were former friends and co-workers, Mike Snow, Eric Tanner, and Keith Herbstreith. Erik Tanner testified that prior to the murders, I asked him to find a “hot” gun for him. Prior to trial and during the initial investigation of this matter, law enforcement asked Erik Tanner if I had asked him to find him a gun and he denied that that ever happened. Erik Tanner was given a lie detector test but we have not been provided with a copy of those results. Keith Herbstreith testified that three weeks prior to the murders I asked him if he knew anyone who would kill them for hire and that later I stated “I’m going to have to kill them.” Keith failed his lie detector test and later recanted his statement to my mom. Following my conviction, an acquaintance of mine went to see Mike Snow and asked him why he made the statements against me that he did. Mike’s response was “The day I signed that statement against Greg they let me out of jail. What will Lance’s parents do for me if I change my statement?” I never said or did any of these things.
During the course of the trial, the prosecution made much of the fact that I was seen target practicing at the Heron farm on August 2, 1998, the Sunday prior to the murders and that two military type gas cans were present in the barn that same day. Witness Jerry Gardner saw me at the farm shooting a .22, not a Tec 9 or a Ruger. At trial, TBI Agent Bob Krofssik testified that he was at the Heron farm on August 24, 1998, and did not observe any bullets, projectiles or casings on the property at that time. No one saw me on the farm between the dates of August 24th when Agent Krofssik was there through August 27th, the day the Putnam County Sherriff’s office and the bomb and arson investigators spent an entire day out there collecting evidence. Furthermore, the gas can recovered at the murder scene was a red, plastic gas can and not military type cans like those seen at the farm. None of this had any connection to me. According to other witnesses at trial, multiple individuals both visited and shot guns on that property.
At the hearing on a Motion for New Trial, my attorney called Mr. Chris Henry as a witness. Henry stated that in a conversation with Sam Horn about “snitching”, Sam told him that the way to take care of snitches was to knock on their front door, shoot them, and burn their house down behind him and leave. According to Henry, at some time prior to testifying in court for me, Sam threatened to kill Henry because they got in some arguments about dope. When Henry was asked if he had ever seen a Tec 9 at Sam Horn’s house, he testified that he had not only seen one at Sam’s house but that he had shot Sam’s Tec 9.
In 2012, my family spoke to one of the individuals who was selected as a juror in my trial. According to this juror, the jury as a whole did not believe I actually committed the crimes but, they nevertheless voted guilty because they thought I knew who actually committed the crimes. This particular juror felt that I was not guilty. He stated, “They deliberated for hours and couldn’t reach a verdict. He said they couldn’t agree if Mr. Lance had done the murders or even if he had been present at the crime scene….” In order to break the deadlock, the jury agreed to be bound by a majority/quotient vote. This juror and two others have all expressed their belief that I should have a new trial.
Post-trial Witness Statements
Following my conviction, my family hired a retired FBI Agent to assist us in investigating this case. Through his investigation, my investigator obtained statements from several witnesses who were either present at the Horn residence on the night prior to the murders or the morning of the murders or those who had personal knowledge of the events surrounding the murders. These statements tell a very different story than the one presented by the prosecution at my trial and strongly point to other suspects. I would like to point out to you the most relevant portions of those statements and how they relate to this case.
Billy Cleghorn was present at the Horn residence between 3:30 and 4:00 a.m. on August 5, 1998. When he pulled into Sam’s driveway, the fire was burning at the Kolesnikows’ home. At that moment 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 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 over there, and a gun with a light hooked to it for seeing better in the dark. Sam made a statement in the presence of Billy that Peggy was crazy and out of her head on drugs.
According to Billy, Samantha told him that her mother had gone over to the Kolesnikows earlier in the day on August 4, 1998, and unlocked the bathroom window. Samantha stated that she fell asleep in a recliner on the front porch of her parents’ home, that she woke up between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m. on August 5th, noticed the lights on at Victor’s and Alla’s house, and thought that something must be wrong because Victor and Alla normally went to bed around 9:00 p.m. She then heard several gunshots. Upon hearing the shots, Samantha got scared and went into her residence. She further stated that shortly thereafter her parents came in the house, smelled like gasoline, were carrying an assortment of items that came from Victor’s and Alla’s home, and were laughing about doing the murders.
Jackie Cleghorn told the investigator that he and his girlfriend, Rachel (who later became his wife), stayed at the Horn residence for 3 to 4 months in the summer of 1998. Also at the residence at that time were Samantha, Sam, Peggy, and Lacy and Jenny Harness. Jackie knows that Sam and Peggy Horn got behind in making their payments to Victor.
Sometime prior to the murders, Jackie and Rachel moved from the Horn residence to an apartment in Austin Bottom primarily because he and Rachel had been involved in arguments with Sam and Peggy. Peggy had accused Rachel of trying to set up or frame Sam for their illegal activities. Cleghorn said the argument got heated and Sam pulled a gun and put it in Cleghorn’s mouth. Cleghorn noted that he knew that Sam was a dangerous man. Cleghorn has no personal knowledge as to who was responsible for the murders of Victor and Alla and claimed that he was in no way involved. Cleghorn heard Samantha say that after the murders the law had found either a coat or a blouse that belonged to Peggy. Supposedly it had some blood on it and Cleghorn thinks the law was not aware the coat or blouse belonged to Peggy. Cleghorn himself heard Peggy state “This makes three people I have helped kill.” Cleghorn personally feels that Lance was not responsible. Cleghorn stated that he knew Sam Horn probably better than anyone else and it was his opinion that Horn was responsible for the murders although Sam never admitted that to him.
Rachel Cleghorn is Sam Horn’s niece and Jackie’s wife. She stated that she and Jackie stayed at the Horn residence in June and July of 1998 and that during that time there was tension between Sam and Victor over a well pump. Rachel and Jackie got their own place in July but the day after the murders they went to the Horn residence to find out what had happened. At that time Peggy was freaked out, saying that she could not stay there any longer and that it was not safe for her and Samantha to be there. At first Rachel thought she was high. But Peggy acted differently than when she was high. Peggy talked about moving far, far away so she could be someone else and that she was feeling responsible for things. When Rachel asked her what sort of things, she went from scared crying to mad and yelling things. 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.” The last three days that Sam and Peggy were at the Cleghorns, Peggy stayed to herself. Rachel took Sam’s statements to mean that Sam would kill her and leave her there.
Lacy Harness told Mr. Harcum that he has no personal knowledge that Sam and Peggy committed the murders although he did state that he was of the opinion that Sam Horn was responsible. Harness feels that Greg did not commit the murders. Harness feels that the murders occurred over the land Sam Horn was buying from Victor and Alla.
Harness reiterated that he believes that Victor and Alla were killed over the property. There were a total of three parcels included in his definition of “property.” One parcel was the Horn residence (about 16 acres). The other two parcels consisted of property with a trailer on each parcel that Peggy’s brothers were buying from Victor. Peggy’s brothers were David and James Redmon. Harness stated that James Redmon was making payments on his property, that David was making his payments and when he couldn’t make the required payments he would make up the difference by mowing Victor’s yard or doing some fencing for him, but Sam and Peggy Horn were way behind in their payments to Victor. Harness knew that Sam had no money coming in.
On the day before the murders, Harness was at the Horn residence along with his sister Jenny, Samantha Horn, and Lisa Adkins. Harness recalls that Jackie and Rachel Cleghorn showed up at the Horn residence at about 5:00 p.m. Billy Cleghorn arrived at between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m. Lacy says that he stayed up until about 10:30 or 11:00 p.m. on the night of August 4, 1998 and fell asleep in Sam’s recliner on the front deck of the house. Harness was awakened by Sam making a statement “what is that?” When Harness woke up, he was on the couch in Sam’s residence, unsure as to how he got there, and noticed that Sam was coming from the back of the house. Horn was in his underwear and in the process of taking off a green sweatshirt. Horn was also wearing his socks and a tee shirt under his sweatshirt. Sam looked out the window of the house and told Harness that Victor’s house was on fire. Shortly thereafter, Sam went inside to take a shower. Harness believes that the shower was running when Sam woke him up. He didn’t see Peggy but assumed that it was possibly her that was taking a shower.
Harness stated that after the murders occurred he stayed up at David Redmon’s trailer for a short time. Harness advised that Sam and Peggy got scared and came up to David’s trailer and stayed a few days. Harness advised that they wanted to hide out from the law that was around their residence.
Harness stated that sometime after the murders they all went and stayed with Jackie and Rachel. Harness said that at that time Peggy was talking crazy. Harness’ sister, Jenny, told him that Peggy admitted to her and some others that she did the killing and Sam burnt the house. Harness said Jenny also heard Peggy say that she saw the lady’s spirit come out of her when she was shot. Lacy never heard Peggy admit to anything or make any statement about her and Sam being involved. Harness claimed that he told Detective Burgess he did not think Lance committed the murders.
Paula Lacommare was interviewed twice by Mr. Harcum, 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 shortly after the murders happened. 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 there 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. Paula said that during the time that she was involved with the individuals who spent time at the Horn residence, she frequently heard comments made about Sam Horn being crazy and a murderer.
Paula met Samantha 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 recalled that before the murders occurred Mike Henry came by her residence in August of 1998. Henry worked on junk cars at Sam Horn’s residence and was a meth user. Paula said that Henry told her he had just been at the Horn residence and 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 claimed that she had not been completely truthful with my investigator or 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 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. Samantha stated that her mother was having an affair with a neighbor or landlord. Paula was under the impression that Samantha was referring to the individual that Sam was renting from or paying money to for land. Samantha then stated: “If my dad knew my mom was fucking this person he would kill him.” Samantha continued crying and stated something bad happened. She then stated that her mom and one of her dad’s “emps” went over 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. Her mom and the “emp” entered the residence through the window. Samantha did not mention when the window was unlocked or who was responsible for unlocking it. Samantha mentioned something about wanting to get something that the people had in the bedroom. Paula does not recall what was wanted but recalls something about it being on the headboard in the bedroom. Samantha said her mom let the “emp” in with her and her mom killed the people. Samantha did not mention anything about how the people were killed. After making the statement that her mom killed the people, Samantha started bawling more and went into the bathroom. Although she does not recall clearly what was said, she did perceive something was said about Samantha’s dad burning the residence.
These witness statements contain much more detail about what went on at the Horn residence on the night prior to the murders, the morning of the murders, and the days following but they are far too many to set out in their entirety. These statements clearly define the dynamics between the individuals who ran in Sam and Peggy Horn’s inner circle as well as the fear that Sam instilled in those around him. Although the witnesses were spoken to at different times, were not in the presence of each other when giving their statements, and they all tell a story that is slightly different from the others based on what they observed, they basically tell the same story.
Sam Horn died December 26, 2002. Peggy Lynn Horn is still alive and from what I understand, lives somewhere in Florida or Alabama.
Both the victims’ family and my family deserve to know the truth. And the truth is that Samuel Eddie Horn and his wife, Margaret (Peggy) Lynn Horn killed Victor and Alla Kolesnikows. Peggy Lynn Horn should be imprisoned for her participation in these murders as well as the other murder that she confessed to. Prosecuting Attorney Bill Gibson admitted in open court that he knew Sam Horn was manufacturing and selling crystal meth. Gibson even said he would rather have prosecuted Sam Horn for the murders of the Kolesnikows. I don’t understand why the prosecution failed to consider Sam and Peggy Horn as the suspects in these crimes.
According to the website of Centurion Ministries, a group of individuals dedicated to working to free the wrongfully convicted, it takes approximately $350,000 to defend a wrongful conviction case. I have spent everything that I have to pay for lawyers and investigators in an effort to prove my innocence. If you have any information that would be helpful in my case, please contact my mother, Joyce Argo, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to contribute to my defense, you may do so by mailing a check to The Greg Lance Defense Fund, c/o Joyce Argo, P.O. Box 305, Cookeville, TN 38503-0305.
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