Suspect in teen's killing appears in court - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Suspect in teen's killing appears in court

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JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (WDRB) -- A fugitive sex offender suspected of killing a 17-year-old girl over the weekend had a message for her family as he entered court Monday.

Forty-nine-year-old Richard Hooten, a convicted sex offender, is accused of killing Tara Willenborg in her Clarksville apartment early March 2. Her boyfriend discovered her body when he returned home from work.

When asked what he had to say to Willenborg's parents, Hooten mouthed the words: "I'm sorry," as he was led into court in handcuffs and shackles.

Monday's hearings was just an advisement of rights hearing, where the judge outlined the felony charges against Hooten, including: murder, rape, criminal deviant conduct, sexual confinement and strangulation.

Hooten already had a warrant for his arrest for failing to register as a sex offender. He has prior convictions, including one for sexual battery in Indiana in 2009, and one out of Georgia for aggravated sodomy and rape dating back to 1993.

He had been wanted in Clark County for failing to register as a sex offender, and failure to appear on a meth charge.

Police say Hooten had been visiting someone in the apartment across the hall from Willenborg and that they did not know each other.

Willenborg's father says she had attended Jeffersonville High School where she was a member of the cross country team. Most recently, she had earned her G.E.D. and had moved in to the Cambridge Apartments with her new fiance.

The grieving family has appointed their pastor as a spokesperson.

"They're dealing with shock and grief and horror and just trying to make sense of it all," said Rev. Jennifer Mills Knutsen.

Knutsen says Willingborn was a spiritual person.

"In all of her thoughts and all of her actions, she always tried to follow the path of peace," Knutsen said. "That's part of what makes her death so hard for all of us who loved her...

"We want to remember her not just for the horrible ending of her life but for the rich fullness and the love that she gave to us while she was alive."

Visitation for Willenborg is set for Tuesday from 4 to 8 p.m. at Chapman Funeral Home in Clarksville. The funeral will follow on Wednesday at St. Luke's Church of Christ in Jeffersonville. Services start at 2 p.m.

Hooten was due back in court on Tuesday to face his outstanding warrant charges.

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