LIMA — One of the best detectives Allen County has ever known and a fixture at the Sheriff’s Office, even in retirement, has died.
Larry Van Horn died Wednesday. He was 64.
Van Horn retired from the Sheriff’s Office in 2005 as the major in charge of investigations. He had worked in that division for 31 of his 34 years and was a wealth of knowledge throughout the department.
Van Horn helped Sheriff Sam Crish when Crish started as a detective and later when Crish took over the investigation division when Van Horn retired. Crish said Van Horn was one of the best detectives the county or city has ever known. Van Horn's name always was mentioned among legendary law enforcement officers, especially for his interviewing skills.
“He was ranked right up there at the top with the best, and I think a lot of that was his demeanor. He had an act to talk to people. He had the ability where he could get the person to like him and that was part of being successful in doing interviews, and he was good at it,” Crish said. “He had a smooth approach.”
Van Horn actually had the same approach with everyone, whether a friend or a suspect.
In the years that followed his retirement, Van Horn worked as an investigator for the Allen County Coroner’s Office and helped break-in Dr. Gary Beasley. Budget cuts eliminated Van Horn's position.
In the last year or two, Van Horn worked the metal detector at the entrance of the courthouse, filling in when needed. He met everyone who walked in with a smile and the slight southern accent that was part of his charm.
Crish said that was just Van Horn.
Being the No. 2 guy
Van Horn not only helped Crish learn the ropes, the two became close friends over the years. After retiring, Van Horn worked on Crish’s 2008 campaign for sheriff.
When Van Horn was at the sheriff’s office, he was the second in command under Sheriff Dan Beck. Van Horn's name often was mentioned as someone to run for sheriff, but he never was interested in the job.
Crish said Van Horn didn’t like politics. He was happy being the No. 2 guy and not in the spotlight.
Van Horn was a 1966 graduate of Lima Senior High School. The Sheriff’s Office wasn’t his first career choice. As with many young men, he wanted to be a professional athlete or maybe a firefighter. He found himself working in factories and carrying bricks on a construction site. A few years later, several friends in law enforcement suggested he join them.
Van Horn started his career at the sheriff’s office in January 1971 and worked for four sheriffs. Van Horn was the Lima Exchange Club’s Law Enforcement Officer of the Year in 1981 and was awarded Ohio’s Silver Star Award for his work investigating the kidnapping and murder of a local high school student.
A warm personality
Even in retirement, Van Horn frequently stopped by the sheriff’s office to grab a cup of coffee and talk shop. If he wasn’t stopping by, Crish said, he called.
“When I got elected, he would call. He would always call me 'Slim.' He had a nickname for everybody. He was a close friend. He was like a father figure,” Crish said.
Van Horn was popular around the courthouse and liked to talk to people about their lives. Not one to talk about himself, he was more curious about others' tales.
Another of his favorite topics was Ohio State football. He loved the Buckeyes. Van Horn attended many home games over the years and was always in front of the television on Saturdays in the fall. One of his heroes was former Ohio State football Coach Woody Hayes, a man Van Horn met several times.
One of those times was two weeks after Hayes was fired for punching a Clemson player following a late interception that sealed Ohio State’s loss in the Gator Bowl in 1979. Van Horn stopped by Hayes’ house in Columbus and knocked on the door. Hayes answered.
The coach invited Van Horn in, and the men sat and talked.
“We spent about a half hour in the living room of this house. We discussed law enforcement. Not at one time was the topic football. We never discussed football or the Gator Bowl,” Van Horn said years later when he retired.
While most will remember Van Horn for his skills as a detective, his knowledge of law enforcement or friendly demeanor, Van Horn actually had a title that gave him the most pride: Grandpa.
Van Horn had 11 grandchildren, many of whom play sports. He found himself traveling to game after game, sometimes having a different event each night, even if it was in the cold rain. He just loved watching his grandchildren compete.
“He was a good guy. He will be missed,” Crish said.
Larry Van Horn