The Chief, the Scotsman, the Swindler, and the Killer

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Needless to say, English authorities were interested in discussing matters with Milano, and arrested him.

As had their counterparts in DeSoto, Lancashire police soon became convinced that Milano was not their killer. Trevor Taylor, detective chief inspector of the Lancashire police and an investigator in the case, says "there was no evidence to suggest culpability" on Milano's part, and he was soon let go.

One of the reasons Milano became an early suspect, Taylor says, is because Austin had used Milano's name when hiring private detectives to scope out Wilson's home. "Bear in mind that [the arrest] was at an early stage," Taylor says. "It [later] was proved that Michael Austin had purported to be [Milano] when hiring a private detective with a view to his surveillance on the deceased."

Far from being a suspect, in fact, Milano would later become a valuable prosecution witness in the case, traveling to England several times during the investigation and testifying against Austin at his trial.

Milano's testimony, Taylor says, was voluntary, and not part of any arrangement he might have made with officials to escape prosecution himself. "[Milano] appeared as a Crown witness," Taylor says. "I can categorically say to you that he did not appear as a Crown witness on the basis that he would not be charged in connection with this inquiry."

But after Milano was freed by English authorities and before Austin came to trial, the contract killing in England came to the attention of DeSoto Police Chief J.D. Horvath. The Wilson and Coleman killings suddenly intersected, and Milano found himself standing right at their juncture.

After his arrest for the Wilson slaying, Michael Austin had the financial wherewithal to hire one of the best criminal defense attorneys in England. That attorney, in turn, retained noted U.S. lawyer Alan Dershowitz to help with matters on this side of the Atlantic, mostly fighting Austin's extradition to England.

Dershowitz hired Louis Stephens, a New Jersey private investigator, to help in the case. One of Stephens' tasks was to find out all he could about James Milano, who was going to be a witness for the prosecution in Austin's trial. Stephens' inquiries naturally led him to DeSoto and a fateful meeting wth J.D. Horvath--a meeting which rekindled the police chief's hopes of finally pinning a murder charge of his own on Milano.

When Stephens came calling to check out Milano's background, each man had some stories to tell. Stephens says he was able to provide the chief with potential new witnesses in the Coleman killing, people in England and Europe unearthed by the Austin defense team who claimed to have had heard Milano brag about killing a business partner back in Dallas.

Horvath, in turn, told Stephens that Milano was a well-known thief and con man, even though Milano had never been charged with any such things. Horvath's characterization of Milano was contained in Stephens' written report to his employers.

More importantly, Horvath began sharing some of his department's investigative files on the Coleman killing with Stephens.

Opening his department's records may have been Horvath's first step across the line in his zeal to implicate Milano. Milano says that Horvath willingly turned over to the private investigator confidential files that should not have been shared.

Horvath and Stephens both claim that the chief did not allow Stephens to see anything that was not a public record. But their protestations conflict with the available record of Stephens' investigation.

In an interview, Stephens steadfastly maintained that Horvath "categorically did not" provide him with any confidential police documents or records.

In an interview, Horvath meandered through various accounts of what he shared with the private investigator. Horvath first stated that he showed Stephens nothing that wasn't public record. The next minute, the chief said he did open up certain records to Stephens because he decided he "would allow Stephens to assist us in our investigation" of the Coleman killing.

What is clear is that a copy of the report Stephens submitted to his employers contains documents that are not part of the public record of the investigation.

One of the first to discover that Horvath was allowing Stephens to peruse confidential police files was Lieutenant Paul Pothen, then head of the DeSoto Police Department's specialized crime unit.

Pothen says that in the summer of 1994 he was called into a meeting with Horvath. Stephens was present. During the meeting, Pothen says, he was given a copy of the report Stephens had compiled on Milano. The report contained, among other things, copies of sworn witness statements given to police during the Coleman investigation, a copy of the department's internal case summary, and even a copy of one of the crime scene photographs of Coleman's body.

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David Pasztor

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