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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

McPherson Kansas man arrested in capital murder case

Posted on Wed, Jun. 04, 2008

The Wichita Eagle

A 44-year-old McPherson Kansas man was arrested Tuesday and accused of capital murder in the May 18 strangulation death of an 85-year-old woman in a Buhler Kansas retirement home.

Marvin J. Gifford Jr. was arrested in McPherson County, where he is serving a two-year sentence for lewd and lascivious behavior. Jailers said he began that sentence May 29.

Law enforcement officials said Gifford also has been linked to a series of other attacks and attempted attacks on elderly women in recent weeks in Reno County.

Pearl Arthaud died May 18 at the Buhler Sunshine Meadows Retirement Community.

Prosecutors said Arthaud survived a March 21 attack in which she was sexually assaulted and strangled. They said Gifford allegedly returned to her apartment two months later and killed her.

Investigators said Gifford may have found elderly women through newspaper birthday or celebration announcements. They urged those who use such announcements not to include addresses or mention that a person is widowed or lives alone.

The suspect, who is being held in the McPherson County Jail, was arrested Tuesday on allegations of capital murder, attempted capital murder, rape, aggravated criminal sodomy, aggravated sexual battery, aggravated burglary and attempted aggravated burglary.

A timeline compiled by a task force that investigated the case alleges that:

• On March 21, Arthaud was attacked in her apartment for the first time. She waited a week before telling a relative about the incident, and her family then reported the attack to Buhler police.

• On March 22, someone tried to enter the home of an 87-year-old woman at the Good Samaritan Village in Hutchinson. The woman refused to answer her door and was unharmed.

• Also on March 22, a man tried unsuccessfully to enter the residence of a 95-year-old woman at the same center.

• On March 30, someone entered the residence of a 90-year-old woman at the Mennonite Friendship Manor in South Hutchinson. She was sexually assaulted and strangled, but survived.

• On April 6, a man forced his way into a home on South Poplar Street in Hutchinson. Once inside, he sexually assaulted a 62-year-old woman and strangled her into unconsciousness. She survived.

• On May 18, someone again entered Arthaud's apartment, sexually assaulted and strangled her.

• On May 19, a task force was formed to investigate the attacks. Buhler police, Hutchinson police, South Hutchinson police, the Reno County Sheriff's Office, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the Reno County District Attorney's Office participated.

• On May 22, the McPherson man became the prime target in the case, and investigators started conducting close surveillance to ensure that no other attacks would occur.

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