Capital murder suspect arrested in Oregon

Capital murder suspect arrested in Oregon
Thomas Elliot Stafford (Photo source: JCSD)
Thomas Elliot Stafford (Photo source: JCSD)

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The man wanted in connection with the death of a man found in a South Mississippi freezer is now in custody.

Now, the son of 65-year-old Jackson County murder victim Jerry Kirkendall, Sr. - whose body was found in a freezer – speaking out about his father and the man who is accused of killing him.

According to officials, Thomas Elliot Stafford was arrested outside of a home in Oregon on Saturday.

"I was in disbelief. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It was hard for me to take that in at once," said Jerry Kirkendall, Jr.

The victim's 10-year-old granddaughter, Brooklyn, was hurt the worst.

"She was looking forward to seeing him. He was supposed to come up and visit for a couple of days and bring her an early Easter present," said Kirkendall. "Talked to him on the phone on March 1."

Authorities say the victim was murdered just two days later; his body shoved into a freezer at a home he was renting in Latimer.

He was discovered March 20.

"We didn't hear anything, and we were wondering what was going on and nobody could get a hold of him. We were trying to call him, and we didn't understand that," said his son.

Kirkendall Jr. says his retired father was in South Mississippi from his home in Aurora, Ind., to visit friends and work on homes; something he's done several times.

Stafford was arrested in Portland, Ore. five days later.

"When we found out the news yesterday that they had captured him, I called Brooklyn on the phone and I told her and she started crying. And she was like, 'Well, at least they got him. They got my paw paw's murderer.'"

Kirkendall says he's never met nor spoken with Stafford, but had no reason to think anything was wrong.

"My dad always sounded happy on the phone when he called and we talked to him. He never sounded distressed, or anything that he had any worry or anything. That's why I'm still in shock....I don't know why he done that to my dad."

Kirkendall says he thinks the motivation may have been money because his dad always carried a lot of cash. And, the victim had just received his Social Security check.

His father was beloved in his hometown.

"Everybody knew who he was," his son said. "Everybody spoke of him highly, he was always in good spirits. He was always just full of life. That was my dad."

Stafford will appear in court on Monday, where he will have to decide whether to return to Mississippi right away or fight extradition.

It is still not known why he was in Portland, or how he got there. However, officials have confirmed that Stafford had an arrest warrant out for him in Portland for parole violation on a September 2016 methamphetamine conviction.

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