Montana Man Killed in Liquor-Fueled Army vs. Marines Spat

The American West has a long and colorful history of men killing each other over the some of the stupidest reasons imaginable.

For instance, one of my own ancestors–a cold-blooded gunfighter and alcoholic psychopath named John Wesley Hardin, a confirmed killer of 27 men but who claimed to have killed 42 men in total—gained immortality (thanks to Time-Life Books) as "a man so mean he once shot a man for snoring too loud."*

I suspect then that Great-Great-Great-Uncle John would have found a kindred spirit in 63-year-old William Earl Cunningham of Laurel, Montana, who is facing deliberate homicide charges after allegedly slashing the throat of another man in a booze-tinged argument over which branch of the U.S. military was better—the Army or the Marines.

According to the Billings Gazette, Cunningham was at a picnic at a friend's house last Saturday night when he started arguing the relative merits of the U.S. Army over the U.S. Marine Corps with 40-year-old Nathan Horn.

Cunningham claims that as the service branch argument became more heated, Horn took a swing at him. Yellowstone County prosecutors say that Cunningham—whose blood-alcohol level was over measured at 0.217 percent, or well over twice the legal limit to drive in Montana—then decided it was a good time to become Army Strong and pushed Horn back before slashing the man's throat with a 3 1/2-inch folding knife.

"I did what the Army taught me to do," said Cunningham, according to court documents.

Authorities say that Horn suffered a deep cut to the left side of his neck and another deep wound to the cheek, and died about an hour later.

On Tuesday, a Montana judge set Cunningham's bond at $500,000. He has not yet entered a plea in the case.

Authorities say that they can't confirm if either man had actually served in the military, but say that both Cunningham and Horn did have prior criminal records for "unspecified violent crimes."

*After a 17-year stretch in prison, Hardin (who, incidentally, was not highly-regarded in our family) did the most natural thing imaginable—he passed the Texas bar exam and briefly became a lawyer before being shot in the head while playing dice in an El Paso saloon in 1896. Seventy-two years later, Bob Dylan curiously decided to title his first Biblically-themed album after him–albeit misspelling his name as John Wesley Harding.