PHOENIX – Ron Horton, the man who led police to two men suspected of serial killings in 2006 and was credited with ending their monthslong shooting spree, has died. He was 49.
Horton died Jan. 26 after suffering from a staff infection called Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, according to his former wife, Debbie Dryer, who is now taking care of their three sons.
“He was a hero,” Dryer told The Associated Press.
Horton said in a 2006 interview that he started working with police after his old drinking buddy, Samuel Dieteman, told him about shooting people. Over beers one night, Dieteman allegedly told Horton that he and his roommate, Dale Hausner, would blast at people with shotguns late at night as they cruised the streets of Phoenix.
“They called it RV’ing,’ ” Horton said. “Random Recreational Violence.”
Phoenix police have since publicly credited Horton with helping them on the case.
“Our sympathies go out to his family,” Sgt. Andy Hill said in a statement. “We are eternally grateful to Mr. Horton for his courage in stepping forward.”
At first, Horton said he thought Dieteman was just bragging about shooting people. But he started to suspect his old friend during the summer of 2006 as the body count grew.
Horton went to police and helped detectives track down Dieteman and Hausner. He continued to work with police several months afterward.
“He knew he did the right thing,” Dryer said. “But it also broke his heart because Sammy was his friend.”
In all, police say Dieteman, 32, and Hausner, 34, are responsible for numerous shootings that were jointly investigated as part of Phoenix police’s Serial Shooter case. Dieteman has been charged with two counts of murder, and Hausner is charged with seven counts of murder.
Both have pleaded not guilty. Their murder trial is scheduled to begin in April.
Dryer said the family has not yet planned a memorial service for Horton.