Psychic Discovers Missing Girl
PRELIMINARY REPORT ON THE TABITHA HORN DISCOVERY
I want to emphasize that this report is preliminary, as
I have not finished following up on some sources. I am writing a brief
summary for the net to solicit opinions on mistakes I may have
made on my research or to discover areas which I may have missed.
Those with any pertinent information are asked to e-mail
directly to me, noting the TRUE address. General comments should
be placed on the net for all to see.
On Monday, July 5 of this year, Kenneth Norton a resident
of Winn, Michigan (located next to Mount Pleasant and Central Michigan
Univeristy) was driving to Ann Arbor with his live in girl friend's
daughter Tabatha Horn, 3. Norton called the police and reported
Tabatha missing at a convenience store near Ann Arbor about noon Monday.
A search was conducted by the state police along Norton's
driving route for Tabatha. At the store, nor
anywhere along the path did anyone questioned by the police report
even seeing Tabatha with Norton. Police were especially suspicious
that no one at the convenience store had seen anything.
Sgt Barry Trombly of the Michigan State Police also reported
that Norton's attitude was extremely suspicious. He was seemingly
impassive about losing a girl that was like a daughter to him and
he had refused to take a lie detector test (1).
The local paper, _The Morning Sun_ (MS) of Mt. Pleasant, reported
all these details, including the suspicion that Norton may have
not been telling the whole truth.
The mother of Tabatha Horn, Wendy Gokee, was in care in a
hospital in Ann Arbor at the time.
Wednesday the police used a helicopter, dogs and members of the
Isabella County dive team in a "cursory" sweep of Gokee's residence, but
nothing was turned up.
Thursday, July 8, a resident of Winn, Elizabeth Mahan, called
a Janet Flowers, cook at the Isabella county jail, and gave her
information to relay to the police about the location of Horn's body.
The information she had was received in a "trance." The information
was dictated to Flowers who later turned the information over to
deputy Matt Eckerman of the Sheriff's department.
Friday, acting on the 'tip' deputy Eckerman returned to the
Gokee residence and conducted a more thorough search of the surrounding
area and came across a fresh grave containing 3-year old Tabitha's
body. Ken Norton was arrested later that night.
Sunday, July 11 the _Morning Sun_ and the combined
_Detroit News and Free Press_ (DNFP) both contained front page headlines
detailing the body's discovery. MS: "Norton arrested in Tabitha's
death: Caller claiming to be psychic leads police to grave site."
DNFP: "Police follow tip from 'psychic' to missing girl's body."(2)
Tuesday, July 13 the _Morning Sun_ contained another front
page headline: "'Psychic' heard Tabatha call for help'. On Thursday
July 22, the _Detroit Free Press_ gave over the "Way We Live" section
to report Elizabeth Mahan's and other psychic's sleuthing feats.
Reports about Mahan's visions have undergone a metamorphosis
since they were originally reported. The original 'tip sheet' she
dictated was 'probably thrown away' according to Lt. Frank Hughes,
commander of the State Police post. Calls to the Sheriff's office
are refered to the State Police, who had jurisdiction in the case.
The officer in charge of the case, Detective Clare Fox was on
vacation and was unavailable for comment at the time I interviewed
the State Police (3).
At the original press conference and in the newspaper reports
that came out immediatley following the discovery of the body,
Mahan's visions were reported as saying that the body "was buried
in a grave near a well with a green duffle bag ...". Deputy
Eckerman indeed found the well (located in prominent view from the
road in the neighboor's front yard---a large decorative well). It
was reported that Eckerman "spotted the well and started looking
around and went up a two track about 100 to 120 yards off the
road and saw a green car seat". The car seat had been one of two in
Norton's car. Under the car seat was and old box spring mattress
and a newly dug grave. The body was "packaged" in two garbage bags,
blue towels and an blanket accoring to police. None of this was
foretold by Mahan.
The press jumped on the fact that Mahan had 'seen' a well
which is indeed near their house and that the duffel bag had been
green, just like the car seat.
Winn is a very small communtiy: I believe three stores and
two roads. When I drove by Mahan's residence I counted two decorative
wishing wells in people's lawns in addition to the one in front
of Gokee's property. Ken Norton was known to Elizabeth Mahan as
she used to serve him frequently at "Ric's" Party Store in Winn.
She is reported as saying "I didn't even want to wait on him. I'd
get feelings--bad vibes--from this guy." and "that guy gives me
Norton was ex-military, a Security Policeman, and was
currently working as a security guard at a prision. It was well
known to adjancent neighboors and to Gokee's other children that
Norton was very militaristic in his disciplining of Tabatha (4).
Many of these details were already, or could have been, known
by Mahan in advance of the Horn disappearance.
MY DOUBTS DEVELOP
Mahan is reported to earn a "meager" living as a psychic
in Winn, giving Tarot readings to fellow residents. One
of her friends was Janet Flowers who conciled Mahan in going to the
By Tuesday, the vision originally reported
in the press had begun to subtly change. It was first
reported that Mahan had said that Tabatha would be found near
a green duffel bag (aren't they all? and, remember Mahan knew that
Norton was ex-military) by a wishing well. Tuesday Mahan
reported she began having headaches after Tabatha's disappearance.
She pyschically chatted with Tabatha "I went inside myself and I just
kept saying 'OK baby, tell me where you are.' I said 'I can help
you' and I kept hearing 'Bad man...bad man...'" And that
she formed the impression of **something** green **possibly** a
duffel bag and an image of a well.
This was enough for the press as the MS says "Those two
elements of the crime scene--the wishing well and the green seat--
may make Mahan's tip seem nearly accurate..." This was the view
of the Free Press and News as well.
Mahan then also reported "I really feel that there was an
altercation with a female at least two or three days before
he committed this. He was very, very angry and unfortunately
poor little Tabatha is the one who got it.(5)" This altercation
was not known to police at the time I interviewed them on
26 July. But how had she known Norton was very angry? It sounds
more like she had seen Norton, not at all unlikely becasue
of his visits to the party store.
By Thursday the 22nd the reports only mentioned "something
green and near a well." Nothing was ever mentioned by Mahan about the
mattress, *blue* blankets, or plastic Tabatha was found in. Yet
Mahan's vision was judged to be a success. Nothing was ever mentioned
that the well is plainly visible from the road in front of Norton's
house and nothing was ever mentioned about Mahan's relation to
Norton previous to Tabatha's murder.
Yet the body was *not* found anywhere near a green
duffel bag. The body was *not* found near a wishing well. The
body *was* found in the woods behind Norton's property. The police
told me the area was going to be a "marshalling site (6)" the very next
day (Saturday, July 10). The press did not seem to imagine
that this huble "soft-spoken" psychic could have pieced together
the same suspicions that the police and the press reported *before*
the body was found (like the driving time discrepancies
reoprted in the paper, complete with maps! the police admitted
they suspected Norton immediately, hence the marshalling site.).
And more importantly no other details of Mahan's vision
are available. Did she mention a tree? An old car? Candy wrapper,
satan's evil influence? Were the only things she saw the
duffel bag and the well? We'll never know as the originally tip
sheet is long gone.(7) It may be easy to search through a list of
possible and be able to 'pick and choose' in order to make a
good case, but it does not prove psychic powers.
When I pointed these thoughts out to the police they
understandably demurred. "I don't care if the tip comes in
on a flaming arrow, " says Sgt Trombly, "Investigate the tip
first and the arrow second." Also, it is always possible he
said that the so-clled 'psychics' may be related personally
to the case. To discourage any kind of tips would be unwise.
I wrote the Free Press and the writer of the psychic
follow up stories a letter detailing my suspicions but I have
not, as yet, received a response. (8)
The case attracted great state wide attention, more
so in the small community of Winn, where everyone knows everyone.
That a local resident and 'psychic' helped solve the case was a
good angle that helped sell papers. But in depth analysis of the
case casts great suspicions on the efficacy of the visions.
It is reasonabel to conclude that psychic powers were not
involved and that Mahan's and the rest of the communties wishes
for Tabatha's safety and subsequent horror at the discovery of her
death played a very large role in the confirmation of
Mahan's psychic abilities.
(1) Don't write me about lie detectors: I've taken them and do
not believe in their *scientific premise. The police do have
faith in them and use willingness to take it as a measure
(2) This paper has state wide distribution.
(3) I'm still waiting to hear from Det. Fox; and he seemed
to me (from newspaper accounts) to be the most skeptical of
(4) Reoprts indicate that police found blood stained pillows
belonging to Tabatha in the house (from past incidents). Norton
also had forced Tabatha to wear a blind fold and sit in a chair
alone in her room after she had a toilet training accident.
(5) MS: "The reason Mahan said she was able to communicate with
Tabatha is because the girl's spirit was 'earthbound' and had not
gone on to heaven yet, as some spirits do when justice is not done.
'The spirit will sometimes stay until they are vindicated...but it's
not because the spirit wants to hurt anybody. They just want somebody
to listen to them and that's what I did in Tabatha's case (said
Mahan)'" This reported uncritically.
(6) A marshalling site is the starting point for a "massive"
man-hunt. Sgt Trombly told me 40-50 people would have been
involved in the search.
(7) What is left is a copy of the tip sheet Det. Fox made
while interviewing Mahan, after the body was found. The note
contained "highlights" from Mahan's original report plus follow
up questions to see if Mahan was personally invlolved.
(8) I also included copies of relevant _Skeptical Inquirer_ articles.
(9) Sorry, I have no spell checker on this VMS beast.
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