Court documents: Man's neck slashed in Laurel; coroner names victim

2014-08-04T19:36:00Z 2014-08-15T10:55:10Z Court documents: Man's neck slashed in Laurel; coroner names victimBy CHRIS CIOFFI and EDDIE GREGG ccioffi@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

A man facing a deliberate homicide charge for allegedly slashing another man’s throat late Saturday night told Laurel police that he and the victim had been arguing about whether the Army or Marines is the best branch of the military, court records say.

The victim was identified Monday as Nathaniel Horn, 40, of Billings.

Laurel police arrested 63-year-old William Earl Cunningham in connection with the incident early on Sunday and booked him into the Yellowstone County Detention Facility, where he is being held without bond, pending an initial court appearance.

He is expected to be charged Tuesday, according to Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito.

Laurel police received a 911 call at 11:48 p.m. on Saturday in which a caller reported her neighbor had cut a man’s throat and that the man was dying in the 700 block of East First Street in Laurel, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed Monday.

An officer went to the area and found a man, identified as Horn, who was bleeding from the neck. Court records say Horn’s face was on the ground and his legs were draped over an overturned bench near a picnic table on a boulevard. His right cheek had a deep laceration and a cut under his chin stretched from the left to right side of his neck, according to the affidavit.

A second man, identified as Cunningham, was leaning against a silver Buick sedan when police arrived, records say.

He voluntarily said, “I cut him. He’s dead,” charging documents say. Horn was declared dead less than an hour later.

“The knife’s on the table,” Cunningham reportedly told an officer, pointing out a bloody folding knife.

The knife, which had a 3 ½-inch blade, was silver and had a handle with imitation wood inlays, court records say.

Cunningham was read his rights and agreed to make a statement. In that statement, Cunningham reportedly told the officer that he and Horn had been sitting at the picnic table when they started arguing about whether the Army or Marines was the best branch of the U.S. military.

“During this time the argument became physical, and Mr. Cunningham admitted to (LPD Officer Jeremiah) Johnson that he slashed the throat of Mr. Horn,” Laurel police Sgt. Mark Guy said during a press conference Monday evening.

Guy declined to provide additional details regarding the dispute, but said the men had also argued the night before over the same issue. He wasn’t sure if either of the men had served in the military.

Both men, however have prior criminal histories for unspecified violent offenses, Guy told reporters.

Horn was in Laurel to visit a friend when the confrontation occurred, Guy said, adding that alcohol was a factor in the incident.

Paramedics flown in from Billings treated Horn and pronounced him dead on the scene, Guy said.

The intersection of First and Idaho was closed most of the day Sunday as police processed the scene. The scene was cleared around 9 p.m. Sunday, Guy said.

The Montana Division of Criminal Investigation is assisting with the investigation.

The homicide is the first in Laurel since a vehicular homicide in 2012. There was also a fatal shooting in 2008, Guy said.

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