Horton pleads guilty

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com

Abel Dale Horton, 25, of Hominy pleaded guilty last week in Osage County District Court in the January 2017 killing of Eric Hartung, 25, of Perry. The killing took place in Hominy, and the victim was reportedly beaten with an axe or hatchet.

Horton was charged with first-degree murder/deliberate intent. Two other suspects, Helena Christina Jones, of Hominy, and Tillman Caudy Wells, of Sand Springs, were also charged with first-degree murder/deliberate intent in the case. Jones is Horton’s mother.

Horton entered a guilty plea before District Judge John Kane and was sentenced to life without parole, a court record shows. He requested immediate transportation to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

Court records indicate the prosecution of Jones and Wells is continuing. A court record shows the Osage County District Court on Feb. 20 set a trial date for Jones of June 10, with a plea cutoff of April 30.

Another court record shows Wells has his next court date set for April 4.

In a district attorney’s report that is an element of the case record, District Attorney Mike Fisher said Horton lured Hartung to his mother’s house and attacked him with a hatchet, “striking the victim in and about the head area in excess of 20 times.”

“The attack continued because the victim was alive after the first several strikes to the head and attempting to defend himself,” Fisher’s statement says. “Once the defendant was satisfied that the victim was dead, he wrapped the victim in a rug and dumped his body in a location where he believed it couldn’t be found.”

Prior to Horton’s guilty plea being accepted, his case had been a death-penalty prosecution. He agreed to plead guilty in return for a sentence of life without parole. According to a court document, Horton had been examined by a forensic psychologist and found competent to enter a guilty plea.

Horton waived any right to appeal his conviction. He also agreed not to testify on behalf of his mother if she goes to trial. Prosecutors consulted the victim’s family before accepting Horton’s guilty plea, according to court paperwork.