Walter Ogrod’s life was forever changed after a police interview in April 1992. Sleep-deprived and tired, Walter was subjected to an intense interrogation that ended with him being charged for the 1988 murder of 4-year-old Barbara Jean Horn. A short trial that primarily hinged on inmate testimony then resulted in a conviction. Walter’s high-profile case forms the subject of NBC’s ‘Dateline: The Investigation.’ He always claimed his innocence, and after spending decades in prison, he was released. So, let’s find out what led to Walter’s arrest and what he’s been doing since his release then, shall we?
Who is Walter Ogrod?
On July 12, 1988, Barbara’s naked body was found in a cardboard box by some trash in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It wasn’t too far from where she lived with her parents. The cause of death was confirmed as blunt force trauma to the head at the time. The investigation, though, didn’t really take off. There were witness reports of a man seen carrying the box in the hours before the murder, but beyond a composite sketch, there were no other leads, and the case turned cold.
It was about four years later, in 1992, when new detectives were assigned to the case in hopes of a fresh perspective and some new leads. As part of their interviews, the police came across a 23-year-old Walter Ogrod. They knew that he lived in the neighborhood at the time of Barbara’s murder but had since moved elsewhere. He was called in for an interview. Walter had learning disabilities and was on the autism spectrum. He had been making a living driving for a bakery at the time.
Walter was coming off an 18-hour shift and hadn’t slept for about thirty hours. An interrogation that lasted more than half a day ended with Walter confessing to Barbara’s murder. He stated that he lured her into his basement and killed her there after trying to sexually assault her. But, Walter quickly recanted his statements and claimed that he was coerced. He said that the police threatened him by saying he would be in holding with other prisoners who would know he was a child molester, implying something bad would happen to him.
But despite the recanted confession, he stood trial in October 1993 for Barbara’s murder. A psychiatrist testified that the written confession was not how Walter usually wrote. However, it was deemed admissible. A jury thought otherwise and was going to acquit him when one juror said that he disagreed with the verdict, leading to a mistrial. The second trial in 1996 relied on jailhouse inmate testimony, leading to Walter being convicted of murder and attempted deviate sexual intercourse. He was sentenced to death.
A review of the case by the District Attorney’s office in Philadelphia County led to a chain of events that ended in Walter’s release. The detectives who worked on the case were later accused of coercing confessions in other cases, with the resulting convictions being overturned. The inmate testimony also proved not to be credible as well. There was no physical evidence that ever connected Walter to the crime. Furthermore, it was stated that Barbara’s cause of death was asphyxiation and not blunt force trauma.
Where is Walter Ogrod Now?
In June 2020, Walter’s conviction was vacated, and he was ordered to be released from prison. Barbara’s mother, Sharon Fahy, voiced her support for his release. Since then, Walter had to get hip replacement surgery and has found it difficult to make a living. He has been getting by on unemployment benefits and stated that he had applied for disability payments as well.
He hoped to pick up some work in the future, hopefully as a trucker. Walter also sued the city of Philadelphia for his wrongful imprisonment. He seems to live in Pennsylvania now and has been enjoying his freedom with his friends and family. He said of Barbara’s real killer, “The person is out there, (he) has to be caught. Because what else are they doing to children out there?”
Read More: How Did Barbara Jean Horn Die?