Man pleads guilty to killing, stuffing roommate in freezer

Published 12:11 pm Tuesday, December 1, 2020

A Mississippi man pleaded guilty to a murder charge Tuesday after admitting he strangled his roommate and stuffed the body into an unplugged freezer in 2017.

A Jackson County grand jury indicted Thomas Stafford on a capital murder charge. But, District Attorney Angel Myers McIlrath said he was allowed to plead to a reduced charge after prosecutors consulted the victim’s family, the Sun Herald reported.

Stafford, 44, faces life in prison, although he could become eligible for parole.

Stafford said in court that he killed 65-year-old Jerry Kirkendall on March 3, 2017, at the home they shared in the Latimer community. Stafford described Kirkendall as a “friend of mine,” and apologized to the court and to Kirkendall’s family.

Stafford said he stole Kirkendall’s Cadillac and sold it before boarding a bus to Portland, Oregon.

U.S. Marshals tracked Stafford in Portland and took him into to custody there March 23, 2017. Stafford remained jailed without bond since his arrest.

Sheriff’s deputies in Jackson County, Mississippi, determined the date of the killing from a store’s surveillance video that showed Kirkendall wearing the same clothes that were on his body in the freezer.

Myers said family members described Kirkendall as a caring person who loved life.