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Dismissal sought in Schnoor murder case

Jason Horner, murder, hearing, 2024, owatonna
Jason Horner, wearing orange jail clothes and shoes, is escorted to a vehicle for his return to the Steele County Detention Center following a contested omnibus hearing in his second-degree murder case. It was the first glimpse of the investigation, as portions of a video were shown of the night he was arrested. A ruling on the motion to dismiss is expected May 24. Staff photo by Kay Fate
Officers testify about Horner’s arrest
Kay Fate, Staff Writer

The lead defense attorney for the suspect in an Owatonna murder is hoping to get the case thrown out of court.

Barry Cattadoris filed a motion to dismiss in the second-degree murder case against Jason Lee Horner, 39.

“We’re arguing that Mr. Horner was provided an inaccurate Miranda advisory,” that any recordings made after his arrest were invalid, “and that the statement was coerced, in violation of due process,” Cattadoris said during a contested omnibus hearing last week.

Horner is accused of killing Sabrina Lee Schnoor, 25, under an Interstate 35 overpass near the Steele County Court Administration building. Her body was found May 30, about 24 hours after she was killed.

Horner was quickly identified as a suspect; Schnoor reportedly told friends she was going to Owatonna to meet him, because he claimed he was headed to prison.

He was charged with second-degree murder with intent, not premeditated, and possession of a firearm after conviction for a crime of violence.

Horner remains in custody in lieu of $250,000 conditional bond. Last week’s appearance was the first time he had appeared in the courtroom in person.

A contested omnibus hearing allows the defense to challenge issues in a case before it goes to trial. It can include witnesses and other evidence to present to a judge, who issues the ruling.

In Horner’s case, two members of the Owatonna Police Department took the stand to discuss the events of June 3-4, the night Horner was taken into custody. Portions of video taken in an OPD interview room were also shown.

Officer testimony

Patrol Officer Matt Tomsche was on duty when he was asked to assist in the search for Horner, who was believed to be inside an apartment in Waseca.

He was involved in securing the perimeter of the scene and transported Horner once he was arrested.

Tomsche said Horner was “very quiet” during the 15-minute ride to the Law Enforcement Center in Owatonna.

“I believe the only thing the defendant told me was in regards to some medications that were in a bag” in the apartment, Tomsche said.

The officer said he told an investigator about the medication; Horner has a pacemaker.

Tomsche said there were no other exchanges until after Horner was seated in the interview room, when he asked to have his zip-cuffs removed for comfort.

Mary Carolyn Russell, lead prosecutor in the case and the assistant attorney general for the state of Minnesota, played the video.

For three minutes, Horner can be heard grunting and moaning in pain as Tomsche and another officer removed the hard-plastic zip-cuffs.

“We were trying to take them off as nicely and as quickly as we could for him,” Tomsche said, admitting that “zip-cuffs and handcuffs can be uncomfortable.”

Tomsche described Horner as “kind of slumped over, not wanting to speak.”

He told Cattadoris he knew Horner’s history of methamphetamine use and had served on the drug task force for four years.

Tomsche said Horner’s behavior “was very lethargic; he wanted to lay on the table.”

Detective’s testimony

Investigator Christian Berg and Sgt. Ben Johnson conducted the first in-custody interview of Horner a few hours after his arrest.

Berg oversaw the entire investigation, beginning when Schnoor’s body was found.

He read Horner his Miranda rights prior to asking any questions, Berg said, “because he was in custody and being charged with a crime. At the conclusion of this interview, he was not free to leave, to go home.”

In his 16 years in law enforcement, Berg said, he has Mirandized thousands of people.

Berg described Horner’s demeanor during the interview as “kind of a mix. At times, he was very somber, then very animated, very upset – visibly shaking and crying. There were times when he made direct eye contact, and there were times when he did not.”

Horner invoked his rights “at the conclusion of the interview. He wanted to speak to a lawyer, and at that time, Sgt. Johnson and I quit asking questions.”

Russell then played the video, starting when Berg and Johnson entered the room, identified themselves and stated the time.

“I know that you’re probably anxious to talk with us, so before we do that, I want to run you through your rights, OK?” Berg asked. He then read the Miranda warning from a card.

Horner can be seen nodding slightly on the video, and “kind of mumbled a verbal ‘yes, m-hm,’” Berg said, “then began to speak about the series of events that had happened.”

Russell skipped the video ahead to about an hour later, shortly before the interview ended.

The audio is somewhat difficult to understand; Horner appears to be answering questions when Berg and Johnson abruptly close their notebooks and stand up.

Horner then says, “I’m trying to tell you; I’m trying to (expletive) cooperate.”

Berg responds, “Alright, end of statement at 6:00 a.m.,” and the two officers leave the interview room.

He told Russell that Horner “indicated his right to counsel” right before they stood up.

Motion to dismiss

Cattadoris included other evidentiary challenges in his motion to dismiss the case.

He requested orders prohibiting any other evidence of Horner’s prior charges or convictions, as well as prohibiting the medical examiner from offering the opinion that Schnoor’s death was a homicide.

Those issues will be addressed at a pre-trial hearing.

Judge Joseph Bueltel is expected to offer his ruling on the contested omnibus hearing on May 24.

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