Autopsy shows man found in freezer was strangled

Thomas Elliot Stafford
Thomas Elliot Stafford

An autopsy completed Wednesday shows a man found dead in a freezer in his rental home died of strangulation, Sheriff Mike Ezell said.

Jerry Floyd Kirkendall was 65 and lived in the Latimer community. He was found dead Monday at his home on Althea Street.

“The manner by which he was strangled is evidence to be used in interviewing the suspect after his capture, and will not be released at this time,” Deputy Coroner Jason Moody said.

Thomas Elliot Stafford, 40, is sought on a capital murder charge. The underlying charge is auto theft. He is accused of stealing Kirkendall’s Cadillac and reportedly selling it to his cousin in Mt. Vernon, Alabama.

Ezell said Stafford’s cousin gave him cash and a 9mm gun March 5 in exchange for the car. The cousin told investigators he drove Stafford back to Jackson County and hadn’t seen him since.

The car was found at the cousin’s home. Investigators searched it Wednesday, but no details have been released on whether any evidence was collected.

Stafford is considered armed and dangerous. Anyone who sees him is asked to contact the nearest law enforcement agency.

Authorities believe Kirkendall had been dead nearly three weeks. His landlord has said he last saw him alive March 3. A 911 call Monday alerted deputies to a man’s body in a deep freezer that was unplugged, though the home had electric service.

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews