News

Rockdale couple relives ordeal for TV

By MIKE BROWN
Reporter Editor


Sophia and Manuel Norman Sr. hold 1992 capture photo of convicted killer Danny Ray Horning, who tried to kidnap their family at the Grand Canyon. 
Reporter/Mike Brown Sophia and Manuel Norman Sr. hold 1992 capture photo of convicted killer Danny Ray Horning, who tried to kidnap their family at the Grand Canyon. Reporter/Mike Brown I t wasn’t the kind of phone call most Rockdale women get... “Hey, I just saw you on The Discovery Channel.”

But Sophia Norman knew right away her friends had indeed seen the Norman family on the Investigation Discovery Network.

Ever since a fatef ul day at the Grand Canyon 19 years ago, the Norman family has been linked with convicted killer Danny Ray Horning, who tried to hold them hostage at gunpoint but failed, thanks to the brave actions of then 15-year- old Manuel Norman Jr.

Horning was captured within a few days of that 1992 encounter. He is now on death row in California’s San Quentin Prison after being convicted of killing, and dismembering, a Stockton, California man.

BUTCHER—In fact, the episode of Investigation Discovery Channel’s FBI: Criminal Pursuit on which the Normans appear is entitled “The Butcher.”

The Rockdale family tried to stay out of the limelight after Horning’s trial. “We had plenty of media people wanting to interview us,” Sophia said. “We turned them all down.” Horning was a very big deal, especially in Arizona. He was serving four consecutive life sentences in the Arizona State Prison at Yuma when he walked away, dressed as a medical technician, on May 12, 1992.

He was free for 54 days and was the subject of the biggest fugitive manhunt in the state’s history.

A&E Network made a movie about Horning. Sophia didn’t like it. “They got a lot of things wrong,” she said. “So when Discovery called and wanted to interview us for this one, we agreed.”

The family went back to the Grand Canyon and was filmed there last November for “The Butcher” episode.

VACAT ION—None of the Normans— Sophia, husband Manuel Sr., his son Manuel Jr. and brother Wilfred Hutson—had ever heard of Danny Ray Horning when they pulled their van and travel trailer into a parking lot on the canyon’s south rim.

They went on a shuttle tour, returned late in the afternoon and found a car, containing three people, parked beside their vehicle.

The man was Horning, the couple in the car were hostages, kidnapped in Flagstaff several days before.

For the previous six weeks Horning had been involved in a string of chases, shootouts, kidnappings and vehicle thefts.

Horning said he was thinking about buying a trailer like the Normans and asked them to show theirs to him.

Things star ted to unravel quickly.

Manuel Sr. and Horning went back to the trailer while the other three stayed with their van and the adjacent car.

‘HE HAS A GUN’—Sophia became concerned about her husband and sent Manuel Jr. back to check on him.

“When he (Manuel Jr.) walked toward the trailer that’s when he saw the man had a gun pointed at his dad,” Sophia said.

“I heard my stepson yell ‘he has a gun’!” she said. “As I got out of the van Manuel Jr. began to run. (Horning) went back to the trailer and Manuel Jr. ran towards where the park rangers were, screaming ‘he has a gun and he has hostages’!”

That action would win Manuel Jr. praise and honors from law enforcement.

But it wasn’t over. She and Ma nuel Sr. sta r ted to move away but looked over and saw Horning, on the passenger side of his car, holding the gun on Hutson.

“I yelled at him to run but he couldn’t (with the gun still pointed at him),” Sophia said.

Police sirens screamed and Horning leaned down into the hijacked car.

Hutson, Manuel Sr. and Sophia then bolted for freedom. “The rangers were chasing him,” she recalled. “We heard gunshots.”

UNHURT—The family was shaken but not hurt.

Itwasnotquiteoverfor Horning. He led authorities on a high- speed chase for more than 100 miles finally wrecking out on Interstate 17.

He fled on foot through rugged Jack’s Canyon into Oa k Creek village near Sedona.

It was there residents saw him drinking from a water hose and called the Yavapai County Sher if f ’s Depa r tment which came to the site and arrested him.

He was returned to California and convicted of the murder of Sammy McCullough, described as a “fish farmer and marijuana dealer.”

HERO—Manuel Jr. was honored for his heroism by Arizona authorities who traveled to Victoria, where he was living, and presented him with a plaque at his school.

“It was very touching,” Sophia said. “Some of the rangers in the National Park services donated money of t heir ow n so t hey could come to Texas and give Manuel Jr. his award.”

“He (Horning) told Manuel Sr. the whole story of who he was and what he was doing after he pulled the pistol out of his jacket when they went back to the trailer,” Sophia said.

The couple being held hostage was rescued in the chase when Horning rolled out of the car.

“They had just been the first people he saw,” she said. “After it was all over they hugged us and thanked us and called Manuel Jr. a hero,” she said.

MORE AIRINGS—The show featuring the Normans has been aired twice this month and will be on Information Discovery again several times.

“ They told us as soon as all the new shows have run they w ill star t repeat ing shows,” Sophia said.


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The burn ban for Milam County has been lifted. Burning is always prohibited in the county's municipalities.


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