SAVANNAH - A Georgia-based soldier charged with killing an Army buddy was days away from being kicked out of the military and may have committed the crime to steal the victim's car and identity, a police detective testified in court Wednesday.
Savannah-Chatham County police say Pvt. Sylvester Denmark Horton shot Spc. Necco McCraw four times and left his body on a dirt road near the Savannah River on July 2. The slain soldier's 1-year-old son, who had been with McCraw, was found stranded but unharmed near a busy highway, and McCraw's debit card was used to buy two fast-food meals and a pair of jeans hours after the killing.
Police detective Kenneth Whitcomb testified at a preliminary hearing Wednesday that 21-year-old Horton of Topeka, Kan., was carrying the slain soldier's debit card, driver's license, military ID and car keys the day after the slaying when police questioned him at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, where Horton and McCraw served in the same unit.
Whitcomb said Horton was being "booted out of the Army" because he'd had problems showing up for work. McCraw's wife told police that on the day he was killed, her husband planned to meet Horton to pick up keys to McCraw's barracks room, and McCraw had the 1-year-old with him.
Whitcomb said McCraw, 21, of Shreveport, La., had been letting Horton live in his barracks room after McCraw had recently moved into an apartment with his wife. Authorities had initially said they thought the soldiers were roommates.
Horton had been having financial problems, Whitcomb said, and had an outstanding forgery charge against him when police questioned him about McCraw's death. He said police later learned Horton had pawned a laptop computer he'd taken from McCraw's barracks room.
"I believe Mr. Horton wanted to steal (McCraw's) car and he was going to leave town with it when he got kicked out of the Army in a few days," Whitcomb said. He added that Horton had "everything he needed" to steal McCraw's identity.
Horton's defense attorney, Todd Martin, asked the detective if anybody had told him that was Horton's motive. Whitcomb replied that it was "just a theory."
Martin also asked why Horton would steal McCraw's car when he had a vehicle of his own. The detective said the insurance had lapsed on Horton's car.
Kevin Larson, a spokesman for Hunter Army Airfield, declined to comment on whether Horton was being discharged from the Army because the case is still under investigation.
McCraw and Horton served in the Army together for two years with the 110th Quartermaster Company, which handles fuel for the military. Neither soldier had ever deployed overseas.
Landscapers found McCraw's body July 2 dumped on a dirt road on Hutchinson Island across the river from downtown Savannah. Nearly three hours later, police in neighboring Garden City found McCraw's toddler son wandering alone beside bustling U.S. 80. The child was returned unharmed to McCraw's wife.
Whitcomb said McCraw was shot three times in the back and once in his right arm. A police search of Horton's car turned up a .38-caliber revolver in the trunk. Whitcomb said ballistics tests matched the gun to three bullets removed from McCraw's body, and the revolver had Horton's fingerprints on it.
Horton was married but moved into McCraw's barracks room because he was having trouble with his wife, Whitcomb said. He said Horton's wife told police she married him solely to receive military benefits.
At the end of the hearing Wednesday, Chatham County Recorders Court Judge Larry G. Dillon sent the case to a grand jury.