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Chase Leads Suspect Into N.Y. Police Conference

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- After she spotted a stranger rifling through her purse, the executive director of the Saratoga Senior Center said, she chased him outside and across downtown. Yet even Lois Celeste felt some sympathy for the intruder.

That's because in his effort to escape, authorities said, Robert D. Horton, 52, stumbled upon a statewide conference of some 100 New York police officers in the Holiday Inn-Saratoga Springs. One of the cops who was outside the hotel saw the chase, stopped Horton and after some questioning, city police arrested the man.

"I feel really bad," said Celeste, head of the Williams Street site. "I'm pretty adamant about not calling the police, but this just happened."

Celeste said she was meeting with staff on Wednesday when she saw Horton in her office going through her purse. She confronted him when she couldn't find her wallet. "He kept saying, 'I'm not going through your purse; I'm not in your office,'" and then he bolted, Celeste said.

A staff member called police. Celeste and a staffer followed him through the property of St. Peter's Church and across Broadway until he reached the hotel.

Horton, a Troy resident, was charged with fourth-degree attempted grand larceny. Celeste said she later found her wallet that had been tossed in a corner of her office.

"Unfortunately since he was caught in the act, he had not yet completed the crime as far as we know, so presently the highest charge is a misdemeanor," Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy III said, but his office was reviewing the case to see if other counts were applicable.

Not only did Horton's escape route lead directly to the police, he tangled with the wrong person's purse.

"This guy should never have gotten out of bed in the morning," Murphy said, noting that Celeste is a former probation officer.

Copyright 2014 - Times Union, Albany, N.Y.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service