An intensive two-day manhunt for James Barton Horn Jr. ended Saturday in Missouri with police killing the double homicide suspect at a wildlife refuge.
Horn was being sought in the shooting deaths of Sandra Sutton, 42, and her 17-year-old son, Zachary Wade Sutton, who were found dead Thursday morning at a house in Clinton, Mo.
In 2011 in North Carolina, Horn was released from a federal prison in Butner after prosecutors failed to persuade a federal judge that Horn was a sexual sadist who was too dangerous to be freed. They had presented evidence from three women who had been involved with Horn and had been assaulted or raped. Federal prosecutors in North Carolina have declined to comment about the Missouri case.
In Missouri, officers acting on a tip found Horn late Saturday morning inside a house at the Kearn Memorial Wildlife Refuge near Green Ridge, Mo., said Clinton Assistant Police Chief Sonny Lynch.
Officers with the Missouri Rural Major Case Squad had been searching abandoned houses and other structures in the area for Horn, a convicted sex offender who had been a fugitive since late April, after Sandra Sutton escaped the Sedalia home where he allegedly held her prisoner for months. Authorities believe Horn tracked Sutton early Thursday to a relative’s house in Clinton and killed her and her son.
Officers found Horn hiding in a closet, armed with a handgun. When he displayed it in a threatening manner, officers fired.
“They felt that their lives were threatened,” said Missouri Highway Patrol Sgt. Bill Lowe.
Investigators said they had not determined if Horn fired any shots.
For the Sutton family, news that Horn no longer was on the loose brought a sense of relief.
“We feel safe now,” said Roxine Mallory, younger sister of Sandra Sutton. “We feel like we can get some sleep and not have to worry. It’s been a crazy, tiring couple of days.”
Horn, 47, was a former boyfriend of Sandra Sutton and had worked with some of her relatives. He was charged earlier this month with holding her captive in a wooden box, inside his Sedalia home. Police had been unable to find him since Sutton escaped.
The family’s pastor, Rev. David Dubovich, said the Suttons had come know James Horn socially prior to the time when Sandra Sutton disappeared and, it is now known, was being held captive.
“Nobody knew where she was,” Dubovich, the pastor said. “What I know is that Horn was around the family a lot, and went to picnics with them and everything. He got to know the family well. And then, all of a sudden, she (Sandra Sutton) disappeared.”
Sersey said Zach talked about how glad he was to see his mother return. He was excited about living with her again.
“On the night before he died,” Sersey said, “he texted Cody and said ‘My mom is going to buy me a car. Do you want to hot-rod it out with me?’ Cody was the last person he talked to.”
Dubovich said that the community had been on edge knowing that Horn was still at-large since the murders Thursday.
“There’s been a lot of people feeling uneasy,” Dubovich said Saturday. “Now, there’s a sense of relief.”
Police had been looking for Horn since April 30, when Sandra Sutton ran to a neighbor’s house and called police. She told them that Horn had confined her in the house for four months, at times inside a locked wooden box.
Prosecutors charged Horn in early May with kidnapping, armed criminal action and unlawful use of a weapon.
While police looked for Horn, Sandra Sutton moved in with relatives. Early Thursday morning, her relatives found the bodies after returning home from work.
A Clinton police spokesman said Friday that Horn was an avid outdoors man. Authorities offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to his capture.
Horn had a history of kidnapping and assaulting women. He had moved to Missouri in 2012 after being released from federal prison.
Federal authorities had sought to prevent his release four years ago by having him declared as “sexually dangerous.” But in North Carolina, U.S. District Court Judge W. Earl Britt denied the request.
Horn had been listed on the Missouri sex offender registry for the 1992 kidnapping and rape of a woman in Tennessee.
After his release from prison in that case, he was charged by federal prosecutors in Mississippi with interstate kidnapping.
Horn broke into the home of a woman he had formerly had a relationship with. He locked her 8-year-old daughter in a bathroom and raped the woman, according to federal court records.
He then forced the woman to withdraw money from an ATM, locked her in a car trunk and drove her to Springfield, Mo., where he continued to threaten and abuse her.
They then drove to Kansas City, where FBI agents rescued her from a motel room where Horn had been holding a knife to her throat. He was sentenced to nearly 13 years in federal prison.