Harvey Raymond Ortberg sentenced to life in prison for murder, aggravated battery

Asia's Tech News Daily

Oct. 28—COLUMBUS, Kan. — A Baxter Springs man who killed his 65-year-old neighbor and injured two police officers by setting them on fire in 2017 was sentenced this week to life in prison.

Harvey Raymond Ortberg, 53, was sentenced Monday in Cherokee County District Court by Judge Robert J. Fleming after pleading guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Sharon Horn. He also was assessed an additional 113 consecutive months for two counts of aggravated battery against police officers Jimmy Hamilton and Justin Butler.

Ortberg pleaded guilty July 12 to the three counts. The remaining charges — arson, burglary and child endangerment — he was facing were dropped.

“Those charges were dropped after many conversations with family of the victim, the minor that was there and the law enforcement officers,” said Cherokee County Attorney Nathan R. Coleman. “Everybody came to that agreement and were on board.”

Murder in the first degree-felony murder in Kansas carries life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years. The first count of aggravated battery against a law enforcement officer is a severity level 3, person felony for which he was assessed 72 months.

Ortberg also received an additional 41 months in prison for the second count of aggravated battery against a law enforcement officer.

“Those all run consecutive, so he will have a life sentence without the possibility of parole for 25 years,” said Coleman. “If he was paroled in 25 years, then he still has to run the 72-month sentence and then the 41-month sentence.”

Coleman said Ortberg has 14 days from Monday to file a notice of appeal against the sentence, but it's a slim chance because he took the plea agreement. Overall, Coleman said that he was pleased with the outcome of the case, which lasted for four years.

“I think that we got a good resolution in this case,” said Coleman. “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.”

Background

The crime took place at about 1:30 a.m. on Sept. 30, 2017, when Ortberg attacked Horn, 65, at her home in the 1000 block of West 11th Street and set her on fire. Officers Hamilton and Butler were the first to arrive on scene.

Hamilton wrestled with Ortberg, who then doused himself and the two officers with gasoline before flicking the lighter to start the fire, according to the body cam footage shown at the preliminary hearing in 2018.

A third officer on scene, Darryl Nadeau, attempted to put out the fire and suffered smoke inhalation.

Horn was transported to the burn unit at Mercy Hospital Springfield in Missouri where she died approximately five hours later. Ortberg suffered burns to his hands and face, and was admitted at a burn unit in Springfield.

Hamilton suffered severe burns to about 30% of his body and was at the burn unit at Mercy Hospital Springfield for several months before being discharged.

Butler experienced second-degree burns to his left hand and forearm with minor burns to his head and face. He was treated at the hospital for about six hours before being released. He's credited with saving Hamilton's life.

Hamilton, Butler and Nadeau received medals of valor, purple hearts and certificates of honor in recognition of their heroic efforts in attempting to save Horn's life during an honorary ceremony in February 2020.

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