Ex-officer sues Lee’s Summit, saying he was fired for religious beliefs

A former Lee’s Summit police officer, whose wife died at home after a month-long illness without seeing a doctor, has sued the city, claiming he was fired because of his religious beliefs.

In a lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court, Caleb Horner says the police department refused his repeated requests to return to work after Misty Horner died Jan. 9, 2007. Her death came a month after the home delivery of a stillborn infant, Sydney Kay Horner.

During the 31 days between the two deaths, Lee’s Summit police officials, as well as friends and family members, pleaded with Caleb Horner to get his wife help, but in the lawsuit, Caleb Horner says she declined medical attention, relying instead on worship and prayer.

Horner could not be reached Friday for comment.

Tina Moore, a friend of Misty Horner’s since fifth grade, learned Friday of Horner’s new lawsuit.

“It disgusts me,” said Moore, who found Misty dead in bed.

“Police said later she had died 14 hours earlier,” she said. “They spent the night trying to raise her from the dead. Now he’s trying to hide behind religion.”

The case sparked public outcry at the time. How, people asked, could a police officer sit back and watch someone die? Didn’t he have a responsibility to get help for his wife? Or for that matter, even before, during her long and difficult labor that resulted in the stillbirth of his daughter.

What would this officer do when responding to an injury accident?

Two of those pushing for further investigation and for someone to be held accountable in the two deaths were Misty Horner’s parents.

But nearly a year later, in December 2007, James Kanatzar, then the Jackson County prosecutor and now a circuit judge, announced he would not file charges. No evidence existed that Misty Horner ever asked for medical care, Kanatzar said.

Horner said in his lawsuit that he and his wife believed in a “healing process that comes from God” rather than traditional medical treatment.

He joined the Lee’s Summit Police Department in 1998. Misty Horner worked there, too, as a dispatcher. In 2001, Caleb Horner was given a lifesaving citation for stopping a suicide attempt.

In his lawsuit, he says that while co-workers gave him support and sympathy after Sydney’s stillbirth, they turned on him during his wife’s subsequent illness. He says he welcomed officers into the home when they responded to anonymous 911 calls and never objected when they asked to speak to Misty without him in the room.

The lawsuit states that, “While once enjoying an amicable relationship with his co-workers,” Caleb Horner was then ostracized and “given the silent treatment,” after Misty’s death.

He said he was interrogated about his beliefs and what Bible verses supported those beliefs. Co-workers told him he was wrong, crazy and brainwashed.

In June 2008, the department terminated Horner for failing to contact the medical examiner upon the first sign of death, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit refers to Misty as Horner’s wife, but on Friday, Gail Mansfield, Misty Horner’s mother, said the two had never married. She told The Star said she would like to comment on the lawsuit, but could not because she and her husband have a wrongful death lawsuit pending against Caleb Horner. A trial in that case had been scheduled to begin Jan. 3, but has been continued.

Mansfield’s son was not so bound. Brian Pierson said he went to the Horner house to help his sister as she lay dying, but was threatened by Caleb Horner and others there who shared his religious beliefs.

“He didn’t feed her, didn’t get her a doctor and kept her family away,” Pierson said Friday. “He should have been charged. This has totally devastated our family.”

Horner’s suit asks for an amount of money that is “fair and reasonable and in excess of $25,000.”

Horner’s attorney, Elle J. Sullivant of Leesburg, Va., could not be reached.

Lee’s Summit city officials declined comment, saying they had not seen the lawsuit.