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Inmate found dead in jail cell was charged with murdering 88-year-old Army veteran

Prison fence. (Pixabay/Released)

One of the men charged with murdering an 88-year-old Army veteran during a robbery gone bad last year was found dead in his jail cell Saturday.

Authorities say preliminary reports indicate 36-year-old Austin Lee Stewart of Wichita asphyxiated himself with a bed sheet. An autopsy is pending, however, to officially determine exactly how he died.

Stewart was found unresponsive in Pod 2 of the Sedgwick County Jail at about 10:35 p.m. on Saturday and was given CPR by jail and medical staff until emergency medical services workers arrived about nine minutes later, the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. EMS tried to revive Stewart for 16 minutes before he was pronounced dead, the release says.

Stewart was facing first-degree murder, aggravated robbery and theft charges in the Nov. 29 beating and asphyxiation death of 88-year-old Floyd Gilbert. Court records say Stewart and 54-year-old Landon Todd Onek targeted Gilbert for a robbery because they thought he kept cash and guns in a safe in his south Wichita trailer home.

Gilbert’s son went to the trailer after Gilbert didn’t answer phone calls and found his beaten body in the bathroom, bound with a cord around his face, neck and wrists and with a glove shoved into his mouth. Gilbert died from blunt force trauma and upper airway obstruction, according to his autopsy report. His home was ransacked and his 1999 Monte Carlo was missing.

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Police later found some of Gilbert’s property, including his military dog tags, Veteran’s Affairs paperwork and keys to his car and safe with Stewart and Onek.

Stewart was arraigned in the case Friday and had a jury trial set for June, according to Sedgwick County District Court records.

His death is the second involving an inmate at the jail this year. There have been 169 suicide attempts at the Sedgwick County Jail since 2016.

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© 2019 The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.