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Monday, July 06, 2009

Marvin J. Gifford Jr. Update: Kansas murderer

Originally published November 10, 2008
Reporter: Natasha Trelfa


A McPherson man has admitted to killing an elderly Buhler woman and sexually attacking numerous elderly women. Marvin J. Gifford, Jr., entered a guilty plea in Reno County court Friday afternoon.

Gifford admitted to breaking into Pearl Arthaud's home in a Buhler retirement community in May, 2008, raping and then killing her. The 85-year-old woman was also strangled.

Gifford had also been charged with sexually assaulting other Reno County women.
In exchange for the plea, prosecutors will not seek the death penalty, but Gifford also cannot appeal his conviction.

After the deal was reached, Reno County District Court Judge Richard Rome handed down a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole PLUS 114 years.

According to District Attorney Keith Schroeder, this sentence reflects one of the longest prison sentences ever handed down in the state of Kansas.

What follows is a record of all of the attacks on Gifford's victims as released by DA Schroeder.

Warning: The following details may be graphic for some readers. The names of the victims are withheld:

The Reno County District Attorney’s Office and investigating law enforcement agencies have previously refused to provide specific details about the crimes to avoid harming the on-going investigation and insure Marvin Jay Gifford, Jr., was provided with a right to a fair trial. Because of the events of this afternoon, the following details of the investigation are now being made public.

On Friday, February 22, 2008, at approximately 6:15 a.m., a 92-year-old woman told a staff member at the Good Samaritan Village, 810 E. 30th Ave., Hutchinson, that a white male wearing a dark colored hooded sweatshirt, with the hood cinched down over his face, knocked on her independent living apartment where she lived alone. As she was approaching the closed door, the white male opened the door and entered her apartment. She was unfamiliar with the man. She asked him to identify himself and he told her his name was "Ronnie Johnson". She said she was going to call her daughter and moved toward the telephone. The man said, "O.K." and walked out the door. The matter was reported to the Hutchinson Police Department.

On a Sunday evening in late February or early March, 2008, a man came to the independent living apartment of 85-year-old Pearl Arthaud, who lived alone at the Buhler Sunshine Meadows Retirement Community in Buhler, and knocked on the door. He identified himself as "Mark Cain". She allowed him to enter her apartment and he engaged her in polite conversation. He claimed that her son had helped him stop drinking. Her son was deceased several years earlier. Pearl Arthaud did not immediately tell anybody about his encounter.

On Good Friday, March 21, 2008, 85-year-old Pearl Arthaud woke up, at approximately 6:00 a.m., to find the man who previously identified himself to her as "Mark Cain", laying in her bed. The front door had been unlocked to her independent living apartment, at the Buhler Sunshine Meadows Retirement Community in Buhler. The man told her to calm down and said he wanted to have sex with her. She told him "no". The man kissed, touched and tried to strangle her. She was not physically injured. The man then stood up and pulled down his sweat pants. She continued to refuse his requests to have sex. The man pulled up his pants and left. Pearl Arthaud provided this information to a relative about a week after the event occurred. The relative notified the administrator at the Buhler Sunshine Meadows Retirement Community and her family made a report to the Buhler Police Department the next day.

On Saturday morning, March 22, 2008, at approximately 5:45 a.m., an 87-year-old woman, identified only as D.B., heard her door bell ring at her independent living apartment at the Good Samaritan Village, 810 E. 30th Ave., Hutchinson, where she lived alone. She turned on the kitchen light and then heard a man say, "Grandma, let me in". She knew she didn’t have any grandchildren in the area and did not recognize the voice. She did not answer the door. After time passed and she thought it was safe, she went to the door to make sure the door was locked. Someone began pounding on the door and she heard the same man say, "Grandma, let me in". She did not open the door and told the man to leave, at least three times, while he continued to pound on the door. As the man was leaving, she looked out a window and observed a clean-shaven white male, wearing a dark colored jacket with a parka cap tied under his chin. The matter was reported to the Hutchinson Police Department.

On the same Saturday morning, March 22, 2008, a 95-year-old woman, identified only as M.B., was at home in her independent living apartment at the Good Samaritan Village where she lived alone. Her son, daughter-in-law and their dog had spent the night with her. At approximately, 6:00 a.m., the dog began barking and her daughter-in-law went to the window and observed a male dressed in dark clothing outside the apartment. He walked toward the front door and then left without knocking. The next morning they discovered the window screen, on another side of the apartment, had been cut. A report was made to the Hutchinson Police Department and M.B. told them there were three or four prior incidents, occurring at her apartment, in which somebody knocked on her door in the middle of the night. She had not answered the door.

On Sunday evening, March 30, 2008, at approximately 9:30 p.m., a 90-year-old woman, identified only as B.M., awoke to find an unknown white male inside her assisted living apartment, at the Mennonite Friendship Manner, 200 Sunnydell Circle, South Hutchinson, where she lived by herself. There were no signs of forced entry into the apartment. She described the man as possibly wearing a stocking cap or hooded sweat shirt. The man identified himself as "Tom" and said, "Hi Grandma, don’t you remember me?". She did not have any grandchildren. He physically attacked and sexually assaulted her. During the assault, the male tried to strangle her with his hands. B.M. sustained severe bruising in the attack. The matter was reported to the South Hutchinson Police Department.

On Sunday morning, April 6, 2008, at approximately 6:00 a.m., a 62-year-old woman, identified only as R.R., was sleeping in an upstairs bedroom of her residence on S. Poplar St, Hutchinson, where she lived alone. She was awakened by a white male walking up the stairs into her bedroom. It was later discovered that the front door of her residence had been forced open. The same man had come to her residence and spoken to her several days earlier. The man attacked her as she laid in her bed. He told her she was "dead meat". He began rubbing his hands on her body and strangled her until she lost consciousness. She sustained neck injuries, bruising and a bloody nose. The Hutchinson Police Department investigated the case and a shoe string was collected as evidence from R.R.’s bed that was believed to belong to her assailant.

During this time period, several other elderly women reported similar encounters at retirement homes in the Hutchinson and South Hutchinson. While there were some similarities in the encounters, investigating law enforcement agencies never suspected the encounters to be attributable to one individual. However, the Hutchinson Police Department, with the assistance of the Hutchinson News, placed a warning to the public about the string of attacks and encouraged elderly women to take precautions to ensure their safety.

On Sunday morning, May 18, 2008, at approximately 9:00 a.m., the body of 85-year-old Pearl Arthaud was discovered in her independent living apartment at the Buhler Sunshine Meadows Retirement Community in Buhler. Her door was unlocked and there was no sign of forced entry. She was laying on her bed partially dressed. While the scene did not suggest an obvious violent event, the Buhler Police Department and Reno County Coroner’s Investigator John Tracy suspected foul play and decided to have her body transported to the Sedgwick County Regional Forensic Science Center for closer examination and an autopsy.

On Monday, May 19, 2008, an autopsy was conducted by Reno County Coroner Jaime Oeberst. It revealed that Pearl Arthaud had been strangled to death. The examination revealed signs of a struggle including three broken ribs. Swabbings and other efforts were made to preserve any evidence that might be on or in the body of Pearl Arthaud. This evidence was submitted to the Great Bend laboratory of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

On Monday, May 19, 2008, a joint Task Force was formed comprised of the Buhler Police Department, South Hutchinson Police Department, Hutchinson Police Department, Reno County Sheriff’s Office, Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the Reno County District Attorney’s Office. One function of the Task Force was to share information between investigative agencies and determine whether the attacks were linked. It became very apparent that there were similarities with the multiple attacks that suggested one perpetrator. A public warning was immediately issued to the local community warning of the suspected danger, suggesting precautions to be followed and asking the public to be vigilant in checking on the welfare of elderly female family members, friends and neighbors who live alone.

During the hearing, Gifford addressed the family members of victims who were in the courtroom. "I'm truly very sorry, I can't ask for forgiveness, I can't even forgive myself," said Gifford. He then [apologized] to his son.

Family members also took the chance to speak in court. "No punishment could erase the hurt you've caused," said a cousin of Arthaud. "I pray Mr. Gifford find the Lord," said one woman who was also attacked by Gifford.

Reno County District Court Judge Richard Rome, at the end of the sentencing, took the chance to speak to Gifford, telling him "You've chosen to be God. I have no sympathy for you. I hope you never get out of prison."

The plea deal removes Gifford's ability to appeal his convictions. If he were to challenge them, the DA would be able to use Gifford's video-taped confession against him, and at that point could move forward with the death penalty.

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