A Kansas man fatally burnt his neighbor and set two police officers on fire. Now, he will remain behind bars for more than three decades.
Last week, Cherokee County District Judge Robert J. Fleming handed Harvey Raymond Ortberg, 53, a life term in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years in prison for the burning death of his neighbor, Sharon Horn, 65. Ortberg pleaded guilty to first-degree felony murder and two counts of aggravated battery against law enforcement officers.
On Sep. 30, 2017, police responded to the 1000 Block of West 11th Street in Cherokee County, Kansas, after the defendant set Horn on fire. Officers Jimmy Hamilton and Justin Butler arrived on scene at the Baxter Springs home when Ortberg, in a struggle, doused them and himself with gasoline before flicking the lighter. According to prosecutors, a third officer Darryl Nadeau arrived on the scene and attempted to put out the fire but suffered smoke inhalation.
Horn and the officers were transferred to the burn unit of two hospitals in Springfield, Missouri. Horn died about five hours after the incident, while Hamilton suffered 30 percent severe burns to his body, and Butler suffered a second-degree burn to his left hand with minor burns to his face. Hamilton was later discharged after several months at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, reported ABC 17 News.
Ortberg was also treated for burns to his face and hands.
Fleming sentenced Ortberg to 72 months in prison for the first count of aggravated battery against a law enforcement officer. In addition, he sentenced the defendant to 41 months in prison for the second count of aggravated battery against a law enforcement officer. Fleming ordered Ortberg to serve the additional sentences consecutively to the life term.
Initial charges of arson, burglary and child endangerment against Ortberg were dropped by prosecutors in agreement with the victim’s family members, including a minor.
“I think that we got a good resolution in this case. It’s a very traumatic experience for victims of crimes to go through a trial and to relive all of that, especially when you’re talking about a minor and officers who lived through it. Ortberg’s 53 years old, and if I can get this resolved to where he takes a life sentence with a hard 25 and then a consecutive 113 months after it, the likelihood that he would survive prison is very, very low and I think that’s fitting of the crimes. I think it’s a fitting punishment that he will spend the rest of his life in prison,” said Cherokee County Attorney Nathan R. Coleman, according to The Joplin Globe.
All three officers were honored last year with purple heart medals in recognition of their brave efforts to save Horn. Butler, in particular, was credited with saving Hamilton’s life.