HOLLIDAYSBURG - "Stop being a coward. Accept your punishment like a man."
The daughter of a retiree killed by Nicholas A. Horner told him on Monday in Blair County Court that she refuses to accept post-traumatic stress disorder as the excuse for Horner murdering her dad.
Melanie Kollar's words appeared to sting Horner, who became flushed and looked directly at her.
"I pray nightly you will finally accept responsibility. ... I pray I never again have to hear your name or see your face. I pray this can finally be over so my dad can rest in peace," she said.
Blair County President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva sentenced Horner to two consecutive life terms without parole plus 29 to 59 years.
The sentence was handed down for the April 6, 2009, murders of Scott Garlick, 19, a high school senior, and Raymond Williams, 64, a retiree, and the wounding of Subway employee Michele Petty during a robbery at the 58th Street Subway and subsequent getaway.
Horner's defense during a recent three-week murder trial was that he suffered from PTSD and other mental health problems stemming from his service in Iraq, leading to a state of "drug delirium."
In the three years since the killings, Kollar said she has been approached by people who knew Horner when he was growing up in Johnstown. She said he was known in that city as a "kid who was never held accountable and whose mother always made excuses for him."
Kollar's dramatic confrontation with Horner was followed by a statement from her 10-year-old daughter, Williams' youngest grandchild, who told Horner how much she loved her "pappy."
"I will always miss my pappy and be sad he was taken away from us so soon," the girl aid.
Williams' wife, Christina, told Horner that on April 6, 2009, "You murdered my husband. You destroyed my life that day."
She criticized Horner for delaying his trial for three years. The delay "was for nothing but to punish us," she said.
During the trial, she said she watched Horner laugh and talk to his attorneys, but expressing no remorse.
"You are nothing more than a despicable and violent human being," she said.
Petty said she still cries for Garlick and Williams, and she said, "We didn't do anything to deserve [to be shot]."
Horner looked away from Petty when she said she prayed he would never again be free.
When it came time for Horner's family to speak, 14 of the 19 members of the Garlick and Williams' families walked out of the Blair County courtroom.
Blair County Victim-Witness Coordinator Susan Griep said the exodus was not a protest.
They just didn't want to put themselves through the ordeal of listening to the Horners, she said.
Horner's father, Daniel, said his son "never lied, never stole. ... He was a good kid."
When he came home from his first tour in Iraq and had completed his enlistment, Nicholas Horner returned to Johnstown where he was "always working."
"He loved and took care of his kids. He was a better father than I ever was," Daniel Horner said.
Then he re-enlisted in the Army, but when he came home from another tour in Iraq he had mental health problems.
Repeating a theme of the defense during the trial, Daniel Horner said, "Nick doesn't know what he did. Nobody took that into consideration. He doesn't know what happened. I love him. He's my son."
Horner's mother, Karen, said her son asked for help from the Van Zandt VA Medical Center in Altoona. He wanted inpatient treatment for his problems, and this was just four days before the killings. He was told to return to the hospital in a month, she said.
"If this happened to Nick, it could happen to anybody," she said.
The judge said the killings "were tragic for many, many people."
She thanked the victims' families for their patience, noting the case took three years because of the difficulty of obtaining Horner's Army records, and because several attorneys came and went.
Horner was represented in the trial by Thomas M. Dickey of Altoona and David DeFazio of Pittsburgh.
After the sentencing, Dickey said an appeal will be filed within a few days seeking a new trial because Kopriva did not allow an insanity defense. Dickey said he still believes Horner did not realize what he did that day and that he "remains in a state of disbelief."
Blair County Deputy District Attorneys Wade Kagarise and Jackie Bernard said the evidence did not support the defense notion that Horner was mentally incompetent on the day of the crimes.
His statements after the shootings to police and to expert witnesses showed he had a convenient memory, knowing what he did up to the point where he became criminally responsible, they said.
Horner's family was seeking excuses and an explanation for what occurred on April 6, 2009, Bernard said.
"They just can't believe he's evil," she said.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.