August 10, 2010 at 7:38 PM EST - Updated June 21 at 5:25 PM
GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (AP) — A former U.S. sailor who feared being turned in for having gay sex aboard a Navy vessel recruited three others to help him kill a crewman who witnessed the encounter nearly two decades ago, a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press.
Thomas Solheim, 53, of Montauk, N.Y., was arrested near his home last month on a fugitive warrant linking him to the 1992 killing of a sailor near a South Carolina naval base. Three others — all former Navy personnel — also have been arrested in recent weeks in connection with the death of 22-year-old James Horton.
Solheim had been fighting extradition, but a New York judge on Monday ruled that all the legal paperwork regarding his arrest was in proper order, clearing the way for authorities to transport him to South Carolina to face murder, kidnapping and other charges.
He was represented by a public defender from Legal Aid, which has a policy of not commenting on pending cases. A message left at the Legal Aid office also was not returned.
Horton, a native of Sherburne, N.Y., was found hands tied behind his back with a gunshot wound to the chest in a watery ditch northwest of Charleston, S.C., in November of 1992. He had been sexually assaulted and struck in the head with a blunt object. Authorities believe he was killed Oct. 30, although his body wasn't found until two weeks later. Horton was stationed at the Charleston Naval Base at the time. The base closed in the mid-1990s.
Rosaline Horton, a retired school custodian, told AP last month that her son was serving aboard the minesweeper USS Exultant and had served two tours in the first Gulf War. She said he had discovered two men engaging in sex aboard the vessel, but believes he never reported the incident to authorities.
A New York law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because South Carolina authorities are leading the investigation, said Solheim and three others participated in Horton's killing. "He was the motivation for it (the killing) to occur," the official said.
Charles Welty, 38, of Missoula, Mont.; Douglas Emery, 40, of Hemet, Calif.; and Konnie Jan Glidden, 38, of Goose Creek, S.C., are being held without bail in South Carolina in connection with the killing. They have been charged with kidnapping, criminal sexual conduct and murder, according to Paul O'Donnell, a public affairs officer for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
Arrest warrants from Berkeley County, S.C., indicate Welty was the first of the four arrested — in early July in Montana — and that he made audio and videotaped statements implicating himself and the others in the killing. Officials in South Carolina said no decision has been made on whether to seek the death penalty against any of the defendants.
"Our client just adamantly denies that he had anything to do with this and we just have no idea what the prosecution claims links him to the incident," said Jonathan Milling, an attorney representing Emery, who was arrested last month in New Jersey.
Glidden's attorney, Kate Landess, said she has not been told the details of her client's involvement in the killing. There were no court records indicating that Welty had an attorney.
Solheim is expected to face the same charges as the other three, along with desecrating a corpse. Robert Clifford, spokesman for the Suffolk County district attorney, said Solheim should be transported to South Carolina within 10 days.
Solheim, a gunner's mate, told authorities he had served in the Navy for 17 years. He and Emery, a engineman, and Horton, a boatswain's mate, served aboard the USS Exultant while Welty was assigned to the USS Frank Cable, serving as an electrician's mate. Glidden was a hospital corpsman assigned to the U.S. Navy Hospital in Charleston.
The NCIS spokesman did not have immediate information on when Solheim was discharged. He is believed to be a longtime Montauk resident.
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