A mother and her 17-year-old son are dead this morning, just days after she was released from her forced imprisonment at the hands of an ex-boyfriend. Sandra Kay Sutton, 46, and her son Zachary Wade Sutton were found just before 4:30 this morning at 7176 E. Franklin Street in Clinton, Mo. They had been shot to death by an assailant believed to be 47-year-old James Barton Horn, Jr. who’s also wanted in connection with a grisly crime he allegedly inflicted on Sutton over the course of nearly four months.
On the evening of April 30, around 6:00 p.m., police in Sedalia, Mo. received a frantic phone call from Sandra Kay Sutton. She claimed that her ex-boyfriend, James Horn, had held her captive in a small wooden box since January. Miraculously, Sutton somehow escaped her confinement, at which point she fled to a nearby friend’s house and called the cops. When officers arrived, Sutton described in great detail the tortures she’d endured at Horn’s hands. The information she provided enabled police to get a search warrant of Horn’s home on the 800 block of E. 15th Street in Sedalia.
When authorities stormed Horn’s home, they found him gone, though the evidence of his crime was undeniable. SPD Detective Josh Howell explained, “Once we obtained a search warrant and served it, we did indeed find a homemade wooden container that would certainly contain a human being. It appeared to be used for just that purpose.” He further corroborated Sutton’s story by telling reporters, “what she told us is exactly what we found.” Horn was subsequently charged by Sedalia PD with “kidnapping, armed criminal action and unlawful use of a weapon.”
Sutton’s disappearance had not been reported up to that point, because Horn had allowed her brief trips outside as well as “very controlled” contact with her family. The imprisonment was an escalation from Horn’s previous brushes with the law, who was previously registered as a sex offender. In September of 1993, Horn was convicted of the rape of a 22-year-old woman in Memphis, Tenn. In 1996, Horn upped his game, beginning with the sexual assault of his estranged wife in her home. After locking the woman’s 8-year-old daughter in a closet, Horn abducted his wife.
According to Kansas City’s Fox News outlet, “he made her take out money from ATMs before he locked her in a car trunk and took her to Springfield, Mo. He threatened to kill her and repeatedly abused her during the kidnapping. An FBI SWAT team later rescued her at a Kansas City, Mo., motel where Horn had a knife held to her throat.” Horn was eventually released from prison in December of 2011 under supervised parole.
In spite of a statewide manhunt, Horn continued to elude police for days afterward. On the Friday following Sutton’s shocking 911 call, SPD Chief John DeGonia told reporters, “(Horn) did have phone contact with a family member, and he said he would turn himself in on his own time. … He has made contact (with family), but obviously we’ll continue to look for him.” That scant lead was all that Sedalia police managed to overturn in the weeks following Sutton’s escape.
In spite of Horn’s disappearance, Sutton refused police protection. Instead, she moved to nearby Clinton, Mo., taking up residence with her brother, a home with which Horn was apparently familiar. Sutton’s brother was working the night shift when Horn allegedly forced his way into the home, shooting and killing 17-year-old Zachary on the stairs before executing Sandra Sutton in a bedroom.
According to Clinton police Lt. Sonny Lynch, after the murders Horn fled the scene in Sutton’s car, which was later found in Sedalia at Bothwell Regional Health Center. Mere moments after this revelation, Sedalia Police were back on the hunt, scouring the city for any indication of James Horn’s whereabouts. At about 5:30 a.m. this morning, police arrived at Horn’s home on 15th Street.
Once authorities identified someone moving around in the house, they set up camp, even going so far as to close a local school. According to a video update from a local radio station, tactical teams have begun to assemble outside Horn’s home in advance of an assault on the kidnapper’s location.
Update: At 4 p.m., Sedalia County Police SWAT confirmed that James Barton Horn, Jr. is still on the loose. After searching 3 homes in the area, including Horn’s, police stated that they had seen no sign of the suspect.