By Derrick Perkins [File Photo]
City police say they closed the book on a longstanding unsolved murder case Tuesday, accusing an incarcerated man of slaying a fugitive from justice in 2009.
Authorities said Willie Smith, who today is imprisoned at the Greensville Correctional Facility, stabbed Michael James Horton to death on the 600 block of N. Payne St. in the evening of June 18. The death angered and alarmed the Parker-Gray neighborhood, which was the scene of nine homicides in the years leading up to Horton’s murder, according to media accounts at the time.
Though police initially released few details about the slaying, authorities said Tuesday that Smith knew the 45-year-old Pennsylvania man from past dealings. The two got into a disagreement the night Horton died, said Crystal Nosal, spokeswoman for the Alexandria Police Department.
She did not specify what led up to the argument. The spat ended with Horton on the ground, suffering from several stab wounds.
At the time of his death, Horton was sought by the U.S. Marshals for possession of cocaine and burglary. A wanted poster described him as an armed and dangerous drug user, thought to possess multiple aliases, according to a 2009 article published in the Times.
Though police officials promptly released a photograph of Horton — in the hopes of uncovering more clues — the investigation stalled until recently, when detectives interviewed people involved in the incident again. While Nosal would not release any details, they offered up new information, enough to get a first degree murder indictment.
Police originally suspected Smith played a role in the fatal stabbing, she said. He is incarcerated for an abduction and robbery in Fairfax County in 2009.
“He was looked at — at the time — and at this point we have enough to get an indictment,” Nosal said. “From [these] statements, we had enough to go to the grand jury.”
Police Chief Earl Cook celebrated the case’s conclusion Tuesday, calling it a meaningful victory for his detectives.
“We do not have the necessary resources for a full-time cold case unit,” he said in a statement. “Our detectives carry a full case load and they investigate these cold cases in addition to their normal duties because of their commitment to the families of the victims. I am extremely proud of the hard work and dedication that allowed us to bring this case to a close.”
Authorities still urge anyone with information about the case to contact detective Michael Kochis at 703-746-6285.