Posted on Fri, Oct. 17, 2003
Views vary on man accused in killing
By NICK KOWALCZYK The Kansas City Star
CANTON, Mo. John Henry Horton was distraught last year when detectives came to town to ask him about a 1974 Prairie Village murder case.
Shortly after they left, Horton talked to his friend Dick Pulse Jr., but he did not say exactly what was wrong.
All Horton said was there was something in his past that authorities wouldn't let go of, and that he didn't do it, Pulse said Thursday, a day after news hit this Mississippi River town that Horton was charged with killing 13-year-old Lizabeth Wilson 29 years ago.
Horton, 56, made his first Johnson County court appearance Thursday afternoon, but was not required to enter a plea. District Judge Steve Tatum appointed the public defender's office to represent him.
Horton faces a first-degree felony murder charge in Lizabeth's death. Felony murder in Kansas is a killing done while engaged in committing another crime. In Horton's case, prosecutors allege that he used force or deception to kidnap Lizabeth so he could sexually assault her. Felony murder applies even if a death is accidental.
If convicted, Horton faces a sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 15 years. His bond was set at $1 million, and his next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 23.
Lizabeth vanished July 7, 1974, as she and her brother walked home from the Prairie Village pool just south of Shawnee Mission East High School. Police have long considered Horton, a custodian at the high school at the time, to be a suspect in Lizabeth's death, but no charges were filed.
By the early 1990s Horton had moved to Callao, Mo., a town of about 300 in north-central Missouri. There he became a city councilman and volunteer fire chief, but he left town after he allegedly was caught peeping through windows at teenage girls. He pleaded guilty to first-degree trespassing and resisting arrest and was fined $500.
By 1995 Horton had moved with his wife, Sharon, into a mobile home outside Canton, a town about 20 miles' driving distance from Illinois and Iowa. His nearest neighbor is perhaps a mile away.
Lewis County Sheriff David Parrish said Sharon Horton was uncooperative during the arrest Tuesday night. While authorities talked to her at a door, her husband, carrying his shoes and a cell phone, climbed out a window and tried to run, Parrish said. Police grabbed him in the yard.
Parrish said Sharon Horton came to the sheriff's office Wednesday. Her visit became so intense, he said, she was told to leave or police would find her a cell.
Sharon Horton declined to be interviewed for this article.
More than a dozen persons who knew Horton in Callao or Canton characterized him in two ways: A friendly man dedicated to his job, family and the local American Legion post, or a grouchy braggart with many acquaintances and few friends.
He's a caring father and grandfather that's the kind of man I know, said Don Sykes, Horton's friend of eight years and a fellow member of the local American Legion post.
Horton was post commander for three years. The weekend before his arrest, Horton led the color guard and called out the cadence at Culver-Stockton College's homecoming parade in Canton.
Before his arrest, Horton was working at Charles Industries, which makes plastic cylinders that protect telephone lines.
The Star's Tony Rizzo and Diane Carroll contributed to this report.
To reach Nick Kowalczyk, police reporter, call (816) 234-7716 or send e-mail to [email protected]
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