Police Pay Final Tribute To Former Captain

October 27, 1991|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

Dozens of police officers gathered Wednesday to bid farewell to the "Bulldog."

William P. Van Horn, a captain at the county Sheriff's Office, was honored during services at the Howard K. McComas Funeral Home in Abigdon. His death, at the age of 59, on Oct. 20 came after along illness.

Van Horn was remembered by colleagues as a tenacious investigator, a trait that earned him the nickname.

"He was probably the best criminal investigator Harford County ever had," Sheriff Robert E. Comes said. "He was the type of person who never gave up on anything."

Sheriff's deputies formed color and honor guards to pay tribute to Van Horn during Wednesday's services. Van Horn was buried at Meadowridge Memorial Park Cemetery in Howard County.

Deputies at the Sheriff's Office wore a black ribbon around their badges to honor Van Horn, who had been on sick leave since the summer.

A U.S. Navy veteran, Van Horn joined the Sheriff's Office as a patrol deputy in 1966 after working at the Baltimore City Police Department. The Joppa resident became a detective in 1968 and headed the office's criminal investigation unit between 1973 and 1987.

He was named Deputy of the Yearin 1971 and National Policeman of the Month in October 1981. Former County Executive Thomas Baringer proclaimed Nov. 18, 1980, as WilliamVan Horn Day.

Even as a patrolman, Van Horn shined as an investigator, said Lt. Joseph Higgins, who was a corporal when Van Horn became a sheriff's deputy.

Higgins recalled that Van Horn once tracked property stolen from cabins in the Broad Creek area of northern Harford while balancing his duties as a patrolman.

"It was tough to be successful in those types of cases," Higgins said, noting that Van Horn often conducted investigations on his own time. "But he solved quite a few of the cases.

"(Van Horn) could best be described as relentless when he got on the case," Higgins said.

As a detective, VanHorn became expert at interviewing victims, witnesses and suspects, Higgins said. "He had the Columbo-image very much. That was part of his persona."

Van Horn handled many high-profile homicide investigations, such as the case of Raymond Budnick, a Havre de Grace cabdriver robbed and shot to death in December 1967. The Budnick investigation was active for 10 years before Van Horn found leads that resulted in the arrest and conviction of a suspect, Comes said.

Van Horn wasn't always successful, Higgins added.

For example, the detective headed the investigation into the stabbing and beating death of Marlene Hayes, a Bel Air woman murdered in March 1981. Although he doggedlyworked the case, Van Horn was never able to crack it, Higgins said.

Most recently, Van Horn was working as chief of security at the county Detention Center, investigating incidents among inmates.

Van Horn is survived by his wife, Ellen; three sons, Michael, James and William Jr.; and three daughters, Donna Laird, Pamela Mallette and Patricia Miller.

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