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Archive for Friday, February 20, 2004

Judge orders trial in 1974 homicide

February 20, 2004

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— A former custodian accused of killing a suburban Kansas City girl almost 30 years ago will stand trial for the slaying, a Johnson County judge decided Thursday.

John Henry Horton, 56, is charged with first-degree felony murder in the death of 13-year-old Lizabeth Wilson. She disappeared in July 1974 while walking home from the swimming pool in Prairie Village. Her skeletal remains were found six months later in a field in Lenexa, another community in suburban Johnson County.

Johnson County District Judge James Franklin Davis ruled Thursday there was enough evidence to try Horton in the case. Horton's attorney entered an innocent plea on Horton's behalf after the ruling.

Horton had been a suspect in the case 30 years ago, but he wasn't charged until October 2003 after investigators reopened their investigation. Prosecutors believe Lizabeth encountered Horton while walking across a parking lot at Shawnee Mission East High School, where Horton worked as a custodian.

Davis said he took into account the testimony of a woman who said Horton molested her earlier in the summer of 1974, when she was 14.

The woman, who testified Wednesday, said that one evening that summer she went to a golf course along with Horton and his niece "to get high."

The woman, now 43, said she lost consciousness after inhaling some liquid Horton poured onto a rag. When she woke up, she was lying on her back, unable to move or speak, and Horton was molesting her, she told the court. The woman said she never told anyone what had happened because she didn't want to get in trouble.

After Horton was arrested last year, investigators sought the woman out and showed her a lineup of photographs, including one of Horton taken in 1974. She identified him as the man who was with her at the golf course.

A Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent, Bill Halvorsen, said investigators found out about the woman from Horton's niece, Cynthia Owens. Halvorsen said Owens told agents she saw Horton administer the drug to her friend.

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