Court: Ex-Paper Carrier: Williford charged with two murders

Paul Williford He is in prison for choking a 75-year-old woman at her Tulsa home on Oct. 21. She survived the attack and identified him in court as her assailant.

The felon is accused of killing two women on his Tulsa route.

Prosecutors charged a former Tulsa World newspaper carrier Tuesday with murdering two women who were subscribers on his delivery route.

Paul Eugene Williford is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, linked to the deaths of Geraldine Lawhorn and Donna Jo Stauffer.

He is accused of choking Lawhorn, 75, and drowning her in a bathtub in September 2005 at her home in the 12500 block of East 20th Place.

He is accused of strangling Stauffer, 73, in October at her home in the 12600 block of East 18th Place.

Five months ago, a Tulsa judge sentenced Williford, 65, to serve the rest of his life in prison on charges linked to an attack on another of his customers, who survived.

In that case, Williford pleaded guilty in April to four felonies: first-degree burglary, sexual battery, assault and battery with an intent to kill, and first-degree robbery.

District Judge Tom Gillert meted out four concurrent life terms, which means Williford must serve one life prison sentence that will keep him confined beyond his 100th birthday, if he lives that long. For parole purposes, a life sentence equates to 45 years, and Williford must serve at least 85 percent -- or more than 38 years -- of that sentence before being considered for parole.

Williford is housed at the Lawton Correctional Facility with a December 2043 parole hearing date, a Department of Corrections Web site shows.

District Attorney Tim Harris said Tuesday that a request for the death penalty is under consideration in the two-count murder case but that no decision has been reached.

"It is under review as we speak," said Harris, whose office has an internal Death Penalty Review Team.

Regarding the murder charges, "I hope justice is done," said Stauffer's son Daren Stauffer.

He declined to comment further until he had a chance to confer with other family members.

In the case for which Williford is in prison, he admitted choking a 75-year-old woman at her Tulsa home on Oct. 21 but said that "she would not die," a police detective said.

Williford, of Tulsa, said he "had a difficult time killing her" and indicated that he intended to finish her off by drowning her but couldn't get her into a bathtub, Sgt. Gary Stansill testified at a preliminary hearing.

That woman survived and subsequently identified Williford in court as her assailant.

Based on information obtained after Williford's Oct. 21 arrest, police investigated the deaths of Lawhorn and Stauffer as homicides. Their deaths had initially shown no signs of foul play.

Police affidavits filed in support of the murder charges stated that Williford said he intentionally did not deliver newspapers to his victims because he knew they would call to complain about not getting the paper and "this would give him the opportunity" to contact and attack them.

In Lawhorn's case, Williford said he "was having a very difficult time strangling the victim" because she "would not die," a police affidavit states.

He said he put a pillow over her face with the intent of suffocating her and that he dragged her into the bathroom. He said he ran water in the tub and submerged her upper body in the water but that she continued to struggle, the affidavit states.

Williford said that once he thought she was dead, he took money from her purse and left, police reported.

Lawhorn was found dead Sept. 28 in her bathroom. After statements by Williford, her body was exhumed, and an autopsy showed that she died from asphyxia as a result of strangulation and drowning.

Williford said he strangled Stauffer and rendered her unconscious. He said that as he was walking through the house, he saw someone he thought was her husband asleep in a bed, and he "backed out of the bedroom immediately" and resumed strangling the victim, a police affidavit says.

Stauffer's husband, Marion "Bob" Stauffer, found her unconscious in their home Oct. 8. She was taken by an ambulance to a hospital, where she died Oct. 11, and her body was cremated.

Marion Stauffer died Jan. 1 at age 74. He had repeatedly told the Tulsa World that he looked forward to seeing the man accused of killing his wife stand trial.

Williford's contract as an independent carrier for the World was terminated after his arrest.

In Tulsa County, Williford has a 1986 conviction for feloniously pointing a weapon and 1987 convictions for assault and battery with intent to kill and robbery.

Regarding the timing of the murder charges, Assistant District Attorney Bill Musseman said Tuesday that "it was important that all the steps be taken to complete an investigation."

Prosecutors will submit paperwork to get Williford brought from prison to the Tulsa Jail to await court proceedings on the murder counts.

Bill Braun 581-8455