Former O.C. deputy sheriff indicted, charged with breaking into dead man's home

Richard Winton
Orange County Sheriff's Deputy Steve Hortz has been arrested on suspicion of burglary.
Former Orange County Sheriff's Deputy Steve Hortz has been indicted on grand theft and burglary charges. (Orange County Sheriff's Department)

A former Orange County sheriff's deputy has been indicted for allegedly stealing 15 firearms and other items from a Yorba Linda home where he had found a dead man during a welfare check.

Steve Hortz, a 12-year-department veteran, discovered the man's body during his official duties this summer. Over the next few weeks, he was captured on surveillance video returning to the home and breaking into it three times, including once while on duty and wearing his sheriff’s uniform, to steal the firearms, according to the grand jury indictment.

"I am so angry and beyond disappointed. This act in and of itself has done so much damage to the public perception of law enforcement and the timing could not be more detrimental," said Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer, a former Los Angeles police reserve officer. “The community must be able to trust those who wear the badge and have complete confidence that they are there to protect and serve the community rather than exploit that trust to rob the very people they are sworn to safeguard.”

Hortz, 42, of San Dimas, was indicted Monday on three felony counts of second-degree burglary and two felony counts of grand theft of a firearm. The former deputy did not reply to calls seeking comment.

On July 20, Hortz accompanied two other Sheriff’s Department employees to a home on Via Angelina Drive in Yorba Linda and discovered the body of a man who was later determined to have died of natural causes.

The indictment accuses Hortz of returning to the home in uniform on July 27 and breaking into it while he was on duty.

He then allegedly returned to the home two more times on Aug. 10 and Aug. 16, minutes before he was scheduled to start his shift, and stole more items from the home.

A probate attorney handling the deceased man's estate discovered evidence of the alleged thefts and contacted the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, which initiated an investigation.

Deputies arrested Hortz on Sept. 10, and later that month, he resigned rather than be terminated.

The former deputy is scheduled to be arraigned on Jan. 26. If convicted on all charges, he could face up to four years and four months in state prison.

“The suspected criminal actions of this deputy are a violation of public trust, are inexcusable and intolerable,” said Sheriff Don Barnes following the arrest. "This deputy will be held accountable through a swift and thorough process including a full criminal and internal administrative investigation."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.