Archive for Sunday, April 11, 2010

Woman’s killer to be questioned in lawsuit

April 11, 2010

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— A man who admitted sexually assaulting and strangling an 85-year-old Kansas woman can be questioned under oath for a wrongful death lawsuit against the retirement community where the victim lived, a judge has ruled.

Pearl Arthaud was killed in May 2008 in her apartment at Buhler Sunshine Home in the Reno County town of Buhler.

Marvin J. Gifford Jr., now 46, of McPherson, pleaded guilty in November 2008 to capital murder and other charges in Arthaud’s death and to attacking two other elderly women in Reno County.

In exchange for the plea he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Arthaud’s family filed suit last year against Sunshine Villa Inc., Buhler Sunshine Home and administrator Keith Pankratz.

The lawsuit contends the defendants didn’t do enough to protect the woman, despite an earlier report that the assailant had entered Arthaud’s apartment about two months before the killing and tried to have sex with her.

The defendants say they had no control over Gifford or the events leading to the death.

On Thursday, Reno County District Judge Tim Chambers ruled sworn testimony can be taken from Gifford for the lawsuit, with attorneys for both sides present.

Chambers also ruled that the defense can have access to any police reports obtained by the plaintiffs for the lawsuit.

Hutchinson attorney Mitch Rice, representing Arthaud’s family, said the lawsuit seeks $250,000 for pain and suffering, $250,000 for wrongful death and $10,000 for funeral expenses.

The lawsuit contends that after Pankratz was told of the earlier report of a man in Arthaud’s apartment, he questioned whether she “was in her right mind or having problems with dementia, and stated there was nothing he could do about it.”

Arthaud’s family has also sued Gifford for $300,000 in damages, but Rice said he didn’t expect the lawsuit to go anywhere since Gifford will be incarcerated for the rest of his life and has no assets.

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