Cancer patient found slain at home; manhunt is on for escaped convict

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Calvin Horton tries to comfort his sister, Essie Brown, after their brother, Willie Horton, was found dead in his home Monday. (The Vicksburg Post/Melanie Duncan)

[11/05/02]A cancer patient unable to shout for help was beaten and died in his Vicksburg home, and police were searching for a suspect who escaped last week from the Mississippi Department of Corrections in Issaquena County.

Willie James Horton, who was 47, was found dead in his 616 1/2 Locust St. home by relatives Monday morning.

Vicksburg Police were looking for Larry “Chopper” Ellis. He is a black male, 48, weighs 185 pounds and is 5-foot-10.

Police blocked roads this morning and were conducting a search within a two- or three-block radius of the Horton home in response to calls from citizens who said they saw Ellis.

“We have set up a perimeter of the area. We are searching the woods and we’ve called for tracking dogs to be brought in from the Mississippi Department of Corrections,” Police Chief Tommy Moffett said.

“There is no question about the sighting,” Moffett said. “Two or more people have seen Ellis in the area.” He was wearing blue jeans, a plaid shirt and a green, light jacket, Moffett said this morning.

Police do not have a warrant for his arrest. “We simply want to question him in reference to this homicide,” Moffett said. Information about Ellis or his whereabouts can be given to police by calling 636-2511 or 911.

Horton’s relatives indicated the victim and the suspect knew each other.

Ellis reportedly escaped Wednesday from the Mississippi Department of Corrections in Issaquena County. He was serving a sentence for auto theft and was not scheduled for release until 2006.

Ellis was believed to be in the Vicksburg area because his home is here and his girlfriend lives here, Warden Cecilia Lusk said.

He is also wanted by Vicksburg Police on charges of an auto theft that occurred Sunday at Jefferson and Farmer streets, only a block and a half northeast from Horton’s home. A 1985 Chevrolet truck was stolen, but later recovered on Military Avenue.

Horton’s cousin, Vivian Pierce, said she can see Horton’s front door from her back window.

About 8 a.m. Monday while doing laundry, she noticed Horton’s front door open. She said she called his name a few times, and when he didn’t answer, she called his sister, Essie Brown, who also lives nearby.

Pierce asked a neighbor to go inside the house with her. She said they knocked on the side door of the house first and got no answer.

She said she and the neighbor opened the front door and found him on the floor.

“I peeked my head around the door, and I saw the blood on his shoulder, and I knew he was dead,” Pierce said.

She and the neighbor then called police who responded at 9:17 a.m. Warren County Coroner John Thomason pronounced Horton dead at the scene. After an autopsy Monday night, Thomason said Horton had heart failure resulting from blunt force trauma. He had apparently been dead since sometime Sunday, Thomason said. The body was released to Jefferson Funeral Home.

Pierce said she and Horton were very close and she last saw Horton either Friday or Saturday night, when he came to her house. She said it appeared there was a struggle before Horton died.

Thomason said he estimated the time of death to be in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Horton was the father of two daughters, both of whom live elsewhere in Mississippi.

Relatives said Horton was able to speak only with the help of a voice synthesizer because his vocal chords had been removed as a result of throat cancer. Brown said that made him vulnerable to attacks because he could not scream for help.

“He told me one time, If someone broke in on me, I couldn’t scream, I need to get a gun,'” she said.

Horton’s house had been broken into several times before and a lot of his clothing had been stolen, Brown said.

Horton’s family lived nearby so they could keep an eye on him. “We checked on him all the time,” Brown said. “If he didn’t come down two or three times a week, I’d go check on him.”

Despite his disability Horton lived by himself, said Wallace Horton, one of Willie Horton’s brothers.

“He wanted to be independent,” he said.

“We’re going to miss him and we will always wonder why this had to happen to him,” Wallace Horton said.