The man who tipped off investigators to the identities of the suspected Serial Shooters has died.
In short statements released Tuesday afternoon, the Phoenix Police Department and Maricopa County Attorney’s Office confirmed the death of Ron Horton, who 18 months ago told police that an old drinking buddy, Sam Dieteman, had bragged of killing people.
Based in part on Horton’s statements, police eventually arrested Dieteman and his friend, Dale Hausner, in their Mesa home on suspicion of killing seven people and wounding 17 others in a shooting spree that lasted more than a year.
Both agencies used variations of the word “courage” to describe Horton’s actions, but neither said how, when or where he died.
Not even Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill, who released the agency’s statement, knew the details.
“As far as a manner or cause of death, I don’t know,” Hill said. “I was informed by the detective on the case.”
The missing details add to Horton’s sometimes mysterious existence.
His identity and connection to the Serial Shooters case had remained a secret, sealed in court documents, until he spoke to The Associated Press in December 2006.
He said he was unsure at first whether Dieteman was serious about the shootings. He went to police with his suspicions but was not aggressive with his help until the death of 22-year-old Robin Blasnek, who was killed while walking in Mesa.
“It affected me quite a bit,” Horton told The Associated Press.
Eventually, he tracked down Dieteman and met with him while police were watching.
Investigators arrested Dieteman and Hausner two days later.
The new statement released by Phoenix police called Horton “invaluable” to the case.
It is still unclear what, if any, effect his death will have on the prosecution. A statement from the county attorney’s office said the case “will move forward as planned.”
Prosecutors have a long list of evidence at their disposal for the case, court records show.
Beyond the statements from Horton, investigators also possess secretly recorded conversations between Dieteman and Hausner in which they reportedly discuss the killings.
Guns, ammunition and various reading materials were also seized from their home during police searches.