Chloroform killer of Prairie Village girl now eligible for parole

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PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. -- A school janitor who killed a 13-year-old girl more than 40 years ago is set to go before a parole board in September.

Police arrested John Henry Horton back in 2003 for the death of Lizabeth Wilson. A court found he used chloroform on the girl. At the time, she was walking home from a pool. She vanished while cutting through the parking lot of Shawnee East High School. Her 5-year-old brother was the last person to see her before she vanished.

The former school janitor is serving a life sentence in prison. After serving 15 years, he is now eligible for parole. Prosecutors and police oppose it. The prisoner review board will announce a decision in October after hearing from Horton.

Solving a Cold Case from 1974

Lizabeth Wilson went missing on July 7, 1974. About six months later, her remains were found at a Lenexa construction site. The school janitor was a prime suspect from the beginning of the investigation, but no charges were filed for decades. The investigation revealed he was the only adult on the school grounds the day Liz vanished. That day he also took a suspicious break and tried previously to get other girls to go into the school with him.

The day after Liz went missing, Prairie Village police questioned Horton. He denied knowledge of her disappearance.

In the trunk of his car, investigators found a container with ether and a bottle of chloroform. Horton said he stole it from a school science lab with the intention of getting high.

Court documents reveal officers noticed Horton had fresh scratches on his head, back, forearm, and thigh.

Investigators also interviewed cheerleaders who had been practicing outside the school the day Liz went missing. They also interviewed two girls who had been playing tennis.

The girls said Horton approached them and begged them to go into the school with them.

In 2001, police detective Kyle Shipps asked for permission to look into the case. Teamed with an agent from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, they tracked down old leads. This led to one critical piece of testimony used in the trial. They found a woman who had lived across the street from Horton in 1974 -- the same year Liz went missing. Back then Horton's neighbor was 14.

One night, the neighbor girl went with Horton and his niece to a golf course. Horton talked her into sniffing a rag soaked in chloroform.

She passed out, and when she awoke her pants were down and Horton was fondling her vagina.

In 2003, the Prairie Village police reopened the investigation after coming across new evidence. Horton was charged with first-degree murder.

At trial, prosecutors argued Liz died when Horton attempted the same type of thing he did to his neighbor.

It took two trials with lengthy appeals before Horton was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

The Kansas Supreme Court overturned Horton's conviction in 2005 on the basis that the "prior bad act" had not been placed on public record; therefore, the testimony should not have been allowed.

The court granted a leave to re-try and re-file the case, and this time the same evidence and the testimony of two fellow inmates was enough to find Horton guilty.

Parole Review

Police and prosecutors have already spoken to the parole board. Reviewers have also heard from Alex Wilson -- Liz's younger brother. He traveled from his Arizona home to speak with board members.

Wilson told the prison review board John Horton kidnapped, raped and murdered his sister then left her body in a field.

Shipps is now retired from the force. He met with the board in August and argued Horton should stay behind bars.

“Never has he shown any remorse or taken any accountability for what he did,” Shipps said.


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