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Published on Mar 6, 2008
A jury on Wednesday found a man accused in a 1974 slaying guilty of first-degree murder.
Jurors had deliberated for three hours Tuesday and most of Wednesday before convicting John Henry Horton, 60, in the death of 13-year-old Lizabeth Wilson, of Prairie Village.
During closing arguments Tuesday in Johnson County District Court, prosecutors said the defendant lured Lizabeth into a high school, then subdued her with chloroform so he could molest her. Horton was a janitor at the Shawnee Mission East High School at the time.
Johnson County prosecutor Phill Kline said the girl was killed from an overdose of the chloroform.
But defense attorney Michael McCulloch argued that prosecutors had no evidence to back up their account.
It was Horton's second trial in the Prairie Village girl's slaying. Jurors could have acquitted him or found him guilty of one of the following: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter.
Horton was found guilty of first-degree murder in 2004 for Lizabeth's death, but the Kansas Supreme Court struck down that conviction last year, saying the testimony of another one of Horton's alleged victims should not have been allowed.
The woman testified that Horton had given her chloroform several weeks before Lizabeth's July 7, 1974, abduction. The Supreme Court said the woman's allegation and Lizabeth's case were not similar enough for the earlier incident to be brought up at trial.
This time, District Judge James Franklin Davis decided to allow the woman's testimony, saying he disagreed with the Supreme Court ruling.
In addition, two of Horton's fellow inmates testified that he told them he killed Lizabeth by accident.
Prosecutors are hoping the inmates' testimony laid the legal foundation for the Supreme Court to accept the woman's testimony.
Defense attorneys questioned the credibility of the inmates.
Kline, in closing arguments Tuesday, said Horton had tried to lure several other girls into the high school before Lizabeth, including a girl he asked to stand on his shoulders to help turn off a water valve.
Authorities found chloroform and a knife among the items in Horton's car the day after Lizabeth went missing. Kline said hairs in the car were "microscopically similar" to hair on a brush Lizabeth used.
Kline said investigators also noticed scratches on Horton's arms, legs and back.
In Horton's defense, McCulloch said Horton took the chloroform to get high, had the knife as a gift for his wife and got the scratches from working on his car.