Louis Tuck sensed something was amiss the few times he saw the man and woman who lived in the modest house next door.
“She seemed fearful,” he said. “I grew up in an abusive home, so I know what it looks like.”
Even so, Tuck and other neighbors in the 800 block of East 15th Street in Sedalia were shocked Friday to hear about what allegedly had been happening in that house.
The 38-year-old woman called police Thursday night and told them that her boyfriend, James Barton Horn Jr., 47, had held her captive for four months, sometimes confining her in a wooden box.
Although he had not been charged Friday evening, authorities spent Friday searching for Horn, a registered sex offender who served time in federal prison for kidnapping.
In interviews and at a news conference Friday, authorities provided details from the woman’s account of her captivity and escape.
Horn was at the house Thursday night when the woman told police she got up the courage to “make a run for it.”
She ran to a nearby house that had an open door. The woman who lived there was not home, but her teenage children were and let the victim in, said Jaclyn Bozarth, another neighbor.
When the woman called police from a neighbor’s house, she was “hysterical,” Police Chief John DeGonia said. When officers went to the house, Horn was gone.
After police had obtained a search warrant, they found the kind of wooden box the woman had described. It was made of plywood, 4 feet high and wide and 8 feet deep, said Police Sgt. Josh Howell.
“We did indeed find a homemade wooden container that would certainly contain a human being,” Howell said. “It appeared to be used for just that purpose.”
DeGonia said officers thought the relationship between the woman and Horn “began as consensual, but it eventually led to ‘you can’t leave.’”
Horn and the woman met in July, Howell said, and she moved into Horn’s house in September. At some point in the last few months, he allegedly began locking her in the box against her will whenever he left the house.
Horn’s pickup was found Thursday night south of Sedalia, but a search of the area turned up no sign of him.
Howell said the woman was treated for some physical injuries, and on Friday was in a safe place and was “doing well, considering the circumstances.”
Neighbors said the two were occasionally seen outside the home and she had some contact with others, but it was “very controlled.”
Tuck, who has lived next door to the couple since January, said he had seen them outside together only five or six times. He said the woman never spoke to him.
“I wished she would have,” Tuck said. “I heard him yell yesterday. Other than that, I just heard screaming back and forth at each other.”
He last saw Horn on Thursday, leaving in his pickup.
“It’s crazy,” Tuck said. “Too much excitement. A lady in a box is crazy; too close to my family.”
Horn is listed on the Missouri sex offender registry, which says he was convicted in 1992 in Tennessee of crimes involving a 22-year-old woman.
Shelby County, Tenn., court records show that Barton was charged with rape and aggravated kidnapping. In September 1993, he pleaded guilty to sexual battery and kidnapping and was sentenced to four years in prison, according to court records.
In 1996, Horn was charged by federal prosecutors in Mississippi with interstate kidnapping.
According to court documents filed in that case, Horn broke into the home of a woman he formerly had a relationship with and raped her after locking the woman’s 8-year-old daughter in a bathroom.
He then took the woman and forced her to withdraw money from an ATM. She was locked in a car trunk and driven to Springfield, Mo. The documents say he threatened to kill her and repeatedly abused her during the drive.
Eventually they ended up in Kansas City, where an FBI tactical team rescued the woman from a motel room where Horn was holding a knife to her throat.
In 1997, he pleaded guilty to interstate kidnapping and was sentenced to nearly 13 years in federal prison.
He was released in December 2011, according to U.S. Bureau of Prisons records. His parole, called supervised release in the federal system, was transferred to Missouri in 2012, according to court records.
Horn was enrolled at State Fair Community College in Sedalia last fall, but is not currently a student there, college officials said Friday.
The work address for Horn listed on the sex offender registry is for Tyson Foods in Sedalia. A call seeking information about his employment status was not immediately returned Friday afternoon.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.