Vancleave man gets life in prison after strangling roommate, putting body in freezer

Jackson County man sentenced life in prison after strangling roommate, putting body in freezer

JACKSON COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - A man charged with murder is going to jail for life after pleading guilty to strangling his roommate and putting the man’s body in a freezer.

On Tuesday, Thomas Stafford admitted to strangling Jerry Kirkendall with a wire, stuffing him in a freezer, and leaving the state in the victim’s car in March 2017.

Stafford ended up in Oregon where he was arrested and extradited weeks after the murder happened in 2017.

Jackson County District Attorney Angel Myers McIlrath asked for the charges against Stafford be reduced to first-degree murder at the request of Kirkendall’s family.

“The victim, Jerry Kirkendall, was a gentle soul who loved life and never met a stranger. Unfortunately, within a month of meeting the defendant, the victim’s life was brutally taken. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department did an outstanding job investigating this case. I am proud that, together, we were able to get justice for this family,” McIlrath said.

Before Stafford was sentenced by Circuit Court Judge Kathy Jackson, he apologized for his crimes to the court, to Kirkendall’s family, and to his own family.

Judge Jackson sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. However, Stafford will be allowed to petition the courts for parole after he has either served 15 years of his sentence or reaches age 65, which, for Stafford, is more than 20 years away.

Stafford has been in custody for more than three years and will begin serving his life sentence immediately.

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