State prosecutors have dropped charges against a man and woman who confessed in the 1992 rape and killing of a Navy sailor.
Konnie Glidden, 43, who lived until recently in Goose Creek, and her former boyfriend Charles Welty, of Montana, were the last of four original defendants who faced charges in the gang rape, beating and shooting of 22-year-old James Horton in Berkeley County.
Former defendant Thomas Solheim died in Long Island in 2013 and the charges against him were posthumously dismissed.
Prosecutors also dropped charges three years ago against another former defendant Doug Emory due to a lack of evidence.
“Evidentiary problems,” too, were cited in court documents as a reason not to pursue murder, kidnapping, and first-degree criminal sexual conduct charges against Glidden and Welty.
Proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt would be “impossible,” considering the only evidence linking the pair to the crime were their own statements, according to the court documents, which were filed Sept. 15 in Charleston County by 9th Circuit Assistant Solicitor David Osborne.
“Neither statement can be corroborated by a single fact known to investigators nor any forensic evidence collected during the course of the investigation,” the documents stated.
Horton was stationed at the former Charleston Naval Base, assigned to the ocean minesweeper Exultant, when his body was found in a drainage ditch off Sheep Island Road on Nov. 14, 1992.
Horton lay face down in about 4 feet of water with his hands tied behind his back. He had been shot in the chest, struck on the head with a blunt object and sexually assaulted.
Investigators turned their sights on Solheim early on after learning from Emery, Horton’s best friend, of a run-in Horton reportedly had with the man. Horton had reportedly walked in on Solheim, who was in the Navy at the time, having gay sex, which was potentially career-ending conduct.
Investigators had few other leads in the death and the case eventually went cold. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service re-opened the case in 2009 with help from sheriff’s deputies from Berkeley and Charleston counties, and North Charleston police.
Investigators questioned Glidden, a former Navy medic, and Welty about the death and began to suspect that Horton was killed in a trailer Glidden owned at the time, according to court documents.
Inconsistencies in their statements, however, proved “troublesome.”
“If one knew nothing about the facts surrounding Horton’s murder, Welty’s statement may seem like a solid, reliable confession,” the documents stated. “However, when compared to the facts of the murder investigation, Welty’s statement is so far off, it seems as though he may be talking about another incident all together.”
Welty incorrectly reported that Horton’s body was dumped at an area beach, according to the documents. Horton’s remains were actually found on a hunting tract outside of Summerville.
Welty also claimed Horton had been beaten with a baseball bat and small statue, then shot in the head, the documents stated. The man actually died from a gunshot wound to the chest.
When questioned by investigators, Glidden reported that she couldn’t recall details surrounding the case.
After seeking help from a psychic to jog her memory, Glidden reported that Solheim used a gun to force her, Welty and Emery into beating Horton with a Jack Daniel’s whiskey bottle, according to the documents.
Asked to take investigators to the site where Horton’s body was found, Glidden guided them to the Naval Weapons Station in Goose Creek, miles away, the documents stated.
Glidden has attempted for years to have the confession thrown out, maintaining that her statements were lies brought on by an emotional meltdown after a grueling interrogation led by a NCIS agent.
James Falk, an attorney for Glidden, said he suspected “overzealous investigating” and motivation to close a long unsolved case led to the charges.
“My client has had murder, kidnapping and criminal sexual conduct charges hanging over her head. It’s taken a toll on her life,” he said. “She’s just thankful to have this all behind her and to move on with her life.”
Osborne wrote in the court filings that it is still possible Glidden and Welty were involved in Horton’s death, despite the issues in their statements.
“However, due to the complete lack of corroboration of Welty and Glidden’s facts as alleged in their respective statements, and the existence of facts that completely contradict their final narrative, I conclude there is no way to prove beyond a reasonable doubt either are involved in the murder, and there is a possibility both are innocent,” he said.
Reach Christina Elmore at (843) 937-5908.