Charges were dropped today against a Rockford man who was freed from prison after more than two decades behind bars for a killing he didn’t commit. Outside of a Winnebago County courtroom, John W. Horton Jr., 41, hugged family members and a cadre of supporters who spent years trying to clear his name.
“I’m blessed. I’m truly blessed. I’m grateful,” said Horton, the father of two daughters. He said he feels “a lot of hurt starting to go away.”
Horton was convicted of the Sept. 19, 1993, murder and armed robbery of Arthur Castaneda in Rockford. Horton was 17 years old at the time Castaneda was fatally shot during a robbery at a McDonald’s restaurant, located at that time at 2715 Charles St. He was sentenced in 1995 to natural life in prison without parole.
However, the Illinois Appellate Court ruled in October 2016 that Horton was entitled to a new trial.