A Missouri woman who authorities say was held against her will and kept in a wooden box for months earlier this year was found dead with her teenage son on Thursday — just three weeks after escaping from her alleged captor.
Police in Clinton, Missouri, said Sandra Kay Sutton, 46, and her 17-year-old son Zachary Wade Sutton were found dead of apparent gunshot wounds early Thursday morning at the home of a family member and that Sutton's former boyfriend and accused kidnapper is a suspect in their deaths.
Authorities are searching for James B. Horn, 47, who has been on the run after authorities in Sedalia, Missouri, charged him with kidnapping, armed criminal action and unlawful use of a weapon in an incident involving Sutton on April 30.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol SWAT team and local law enforcement surrounded Horn's home in Sedalia earlier Thursday afternoon, but were unable to find him upon entering, Sgt. Bill Lowe of the Missouri State Highway Patrol told NBC News.
Authorities were also searching for Horn in abandoned homes in the area, after an officer found Sutton’s car near a local hospital. Surveillance video showed an unidentifiable person walking in the direction of the abandoned houses, Clinton police Lt. Sonny Lynch said at a news conference.
Sgt. Lowe said authorities had searched and cleared at least two abandoned homes in the area and have not found Horn. He is considered armed and dangerous.
"All of our searches came up empty, so we aren't currently aware of where he is now," he said.
Just three weeks ago, officers responded to a report of a woman who said she had just escaped from a male who was had been keeping her captive for months, officials said.
The woman said that she had been kept against her will since January, and had been imprisoned in a wooden box at the residence.
Sedalia Police Department Chief John DeGonia told the Sedalia Democrat that Sutton said her initial relationship with Horn "began as consensual, but it eventually led to ‘you can’t leave.’"
Sutton was able to escape and run to a neighbor's house for help, according to the release. Upon checking the residence, police say they found a large wooden box at the home, and that the suspect had fled the scene prior to their arrival.
Horn is a registered sex offender who served time in prison in an unrelated kidnapping and sexual attack, according to The Associated Press. He served roughly three years in prison in the early 1990s for a kidnapping and rape in Tennessee, according to the AP.
He also served a nearly 13 year sentence for kidnapping and abducting his estranged wife in 1997. He was released from custody in 2011 and his probation jurisdiction was transferred to Missouri in 2012.
On Thursday at around 4:30 a.m., Sutton and her son were found dead by their family members, who had left the night before to go to work, Lynch said.
Lynch said Sutton had not sought an order of protection against Horn and authorities did not know she was staying with relatives in Clinton, but that Horn had an outstanding warrant for his arrest in the alleged kidnapping incident.
"The real driving factor in these deaths is absolutely not the victim," he said. "It’s who victimized them and we believe it's Mr. Horn."