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Florida man charged with murder in 1986 case of a Santa Ana dentist whose body was never found

npdz3a-b88425846z_120150603134525000gipa41qp_10A Florida inmate long-suspected of being involved in the killing of a missing Santa Ana dentist was charged Wednesday morning in connection to the cold-case slaying. Nearly three decades after Dr. Cedric Horn, 79, was reported missing, Steven White was charged with the special circumstances murder in connection with his death. Prosecutors allege that White befriended Horn and talked him into a business deal before stealing his money. White, 65, was already serving a life-sentence for the seemingly unrelated killing of a Florida man in 1987. He is expected to be extradited to California to face the latest charge.

Horn’s family members reported him missing on March 13, 1986. Horn had reportedly made plans to visit his daughter in Oregon after a meeting with partners on a business investment deal. But family members became worried after Horn canceled his trip to Oregon, then failed to answer phone calls at his home. Horn’s body was never found, although his car was found in Houston several weeks after he was reported missing.

A neighbor claimed that Horn believed that one of Horn’s partners, along with some of his money, had gone missing shortly before Horn’s disappearance. White, then 29-years-old, was quickly identified as a suspect and was interviewed by detectives in 1987, but wasn’t charged until the case was recently re-opened by the newly-formed Orange County Cold Case Homicide Task Force.

“They had a known suspect and a lot of outstanding evidence,” Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin said. During the re-opened investigation, new forensic tests tied Horn’s DNA to a blood-soaked headrest in his car. White agreed to speak to the cold case detectives. The interview provided the detectives with new evidence, Yellin said, although they still believed that White was lying and trying to manipulate them. The exact manner and location of Horn’s death is still unclear.

Authorities don’t know how White befriended Horn. But they suspect that he talked Horn into a business deal involving shipping or storage crates. Yellin said White is believed to have stolen at least $60,000 from Horn by gaining access to his bank account.
White fled California after Horn’s disappearance. Less than a year later he was tied to a second suspected murder, involving James Albert Boyd, a Florida-based international trader of exotic collectibles who went missing in February of 1987. FBI agents tracked White to an Atlanta warehouse, where they found some of Boyd’s missing possessions. Florida prosecutors moved forward with their case against White, who was convicted of first degree murder in December of 1987.

During the Florida trial, authorities claimed that White had spent months planning the “perfect murder,” posing as a South African shipping magnate interested in Boyd’s house. During a confrontation in the living room of Boyd’s home, White reportedly beat him with an oriental carving, then shot him with a handgun. After the trial, Florida authorities told Orange County law enforcement officials that some of the possessions found at the time of White’s arrest may have belonged to Horn.

White, an Arkansas native, has spent much of his life behind bars. Prior to being arrested for the Florida murder in 1987, White spent several years in prison after being convicted of theft and dealing in stolen property in 1982. He was sentenced to a dozen years in prison, but was released for good behavior in 1986, at which point he moved to California and stopped checking in with his parole officer.

Orange County authorities are working with their counterparts in Florida to have White brought back to California. The Orange County District Attorney’s office has not yet decided whether to pursue the death penalty.

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