Laurel homicide suspect, victim both had criminal records

2014-08-05T17:00:00Z 2014-08-20T08:47:07Z Laurel homicide suspect, victim both had criminal recordsBy CHRIS CIOFFI The Billings Gazette

Both men involved in Saturday night's homicide in the 700 block of East First Street in Laurel have rap sheets spanning several decades.

Laurel Police found Nathaniel Horn, 40, of Billings, on the ground bleeding from a neck wound just before midnight. William Earl Cunningham, 63, was arrested at the scene.

Leaning against a silver Buick sedan when police arrived, Cunningham voluntarily told them that he cut Horn during an argument over which branch of the U.S. military was the best — the Army or the Marines, according to an affidavit filed Tuesday.  

The murder weapon, a 3½-inch knife, lay on a picnic table near Horn's body. He was declared dead less than an hour later. 

Cunningham's criminal record extends back more than three decades. He has a 1983 conviction out of Santa Clara, Calif., for being a felon in possession of a firearm, a felony, according to court records.

He did not surface in Yellowstone County Court records until 1999, when he was charged with felony forgery and felony criminal possession of dangerous drugs. 

As part of a plea agreement, he received a five-year suspended sentence and was released from custody late in January 2000.

By March 13, 2000, he had already violated the terms of his release.

Probation officials determined that he was drinking alcohol, and a hunting knife was found during a search of his vehicle, according to documents filed on March 23, 2000. He went back to jail, and was released on his own recognizance July 20, 2000. 

Twelve days later he submitted a urine analysis that tested positive for methamphetamine and marijuana. On Aug. 2, 2000, he was involved in a disturbance at 2101 Santiago Blvd.

He fled the scene of that disturbance, but he was located in his vehicle in the parking lot of a Burger King at the corner of South Billings Boulevard and King Avenue East shortly after the disturbance, records said.

Yellowstone County Sheriff's deputies searched the car and found full and partially full 24-ounce cans of Icehouse and Miller Beer, an unloaded .38 special pistol, three knives, a sawed-off aluminum baseball bat, a bag containing $110,650 in stolen savings bonds, an undetermined amount of gold coins and 6 grams of marijuana. His blood alcohol content when he was arrested was .108. 

Cunningham served the rest of his sentence in prison until he was released Sept. 21, 2004. 

Before his arrest Sunday, he was arrested in 2009 for driving under the influence, and in 2006 he was charged with two misdemeanors: issuing a bad check and driving with a revoked license. 

Horn, designated a violent offender, has arrests in several Montana counties, according to Montana Department of Corrections records. 

In 1994, Horn served time in state prison on a burglary charge, and he netted his fourth partner family assault charge on May 16, 2008, in Cut Bank, according to documents filed May 19, 2008, in Glacier County.

Horn and his girlfriend entered a Town Pump convenience store attempting to buy beer, but the clerk was unwilling to sell to them because they were both too intoxicated. After leaving for 15 minutes, they returned. 

The clerk reported that Horn was yelling "you want to spend more, here it is." While the clerk called law enforcement, Horn slapped his girlfriend across the face. 

He jumped bail on the charge and was arrested in Alaska in January 2009. He served about two years in prison. 

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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