Olathe — The Kansas Supreme Court has been asked to reconsider its dismissal of the case against a former high school janitor convicted in the 1974 killing of a Johnson County girl.
John Henry Horton was arrested in late 2003 - nearly three decades after 13-year-old Lizabeth Wilson disappeared while walking from the Prairie Village municipal swimming pool to her home a few blocks away. Her remains were found in 1975 in rural Johnson County, but the cause of death was never determined.
Horton, now 59, was convicted in 2004 of felony murder and sentenced to life in prison.
But in a unanimous decision issued Feb. 2, the Kansas Supreme Court reversed the conviction and said prosecutors had presented insufficient evidence to send Horton to trial in the first place.
The justices said a lower court erred in allowing testimony from a woman who believed Horton had knocked her out with chloroform and sexually molested her when she was 14 years old. The girls' ages appeared to be the only similarity between the alleged "prior bad act" and Lizabeth's disappearance and death, the court said.
Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline said Thursday that if the Supreme Court refuses his motion to reconsider its ruling, he will have to decide whether to file new charges against Horton.
"The justices didn't just reverse the conviction," Kline said. "They dismissed the criminal complaint, saying he should never have been charged. Mr. Horton will walk out a free man unless the Supreme Court alters its decision or we recharge the case."
Kline said his office is reinvestigating the case with Prairie Village police and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, and he expects to complete that inquiry before making a decision.
Horton was living in Independence, Mo., and working as a custodian at Shawnee Mission East High School in 1974. He was on duty at the school on the July day that Lizabeth disappeared while walking across the school grounds.
The state's theory was that Horton used chloroform to kidnap and molest the girl but killed her accidentally by using too much chloroform.