Crime

The man who gave her a gun in Oregon was wanted on the Coast, cops say

Thomas Elliot Stafford
Thomas Elliot Stafford

Capital murder suspect Thomas Elliott Stafford has waived extradition to Jackson County, where he faces prosecution in the killing of a man found dead in a freezer.

Stafford, found in Portland, Oregon, is accused of strangling 65-year-old Jerry Floyd Kirkendall Sr. in the Latimer community on March 3. Kirkendall’s body was found in an unplugged freezer and his stolen Cadillac was found in Alabama.

Federal marshals arrested Stafford on Saturday. Marshals say he had taken a bus from Biloxi to reach Portland and used cash from the sale of Kirkendall’s car to buy the ticket.

Stafford agreed to be returned to Jackson County in a hearing in Portland on Monday, Sheriff Mike Ezell said. But Stafford won’t be brought back to Jackson County immediately.

Stafford, 40, has a probation hearing in Portland on Thursday. He was serving 12 months on probation for a meth possession conviction from an arrest in Portland in September, Ezell said. He’s now accused of violating the terms of his release.

Kirkendall, from Indiana, had recently moved in to a rental home on Althea Street. Stafford had moved in with him. Kirkendall’s body was found March 20.

Stafford was found Saturday in Portland after federal marshals with the Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force contacted their counterparts there.

A bus trip and a gun

Marshals determined Stafford had bought a Greyhound Bus ticket in Biloxi and had traveled to Portland, said Randy Brouillette, supervisory inspector for the U.S. Marshals Service in Gulfport.

Marshals began looking for Stafford’s known associates in Portland and set up surveillance outside a residence in downtown Portland.

“Within an hour, they saw a man who matched his description and confirmed it was him,” Brouillette said.

Later, a female friend of Stafford saw the news of his arrest and contacted Portland police, he said.

“The woman said he had slept at her home one night and he had given her a gun,” Brouillette said.

Police in Mount Vernon, Alabama, had found Kirkendall’s stolen Cadillac at the home of a cousin of Stafford. The cousin told officials Stafford had sold him the car for a gun and some cash.

“We believe the gun the woman had matches the description of the gun the defendant received in exchange for selling the stolen car in Alabama, and he used the cash from the sale for his bus ticket,” Brouillette said.

“We’re glad we got him off the street.”

Autopsy results showed Kirkendall died of strangulation. How he was strangled is being withheld pending further investigation.

Stafford is held at the Multnomah County jail in Portland.

The underlying charge in the capital murder case is auto theft.

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews

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