GRAY, Maine — The autopsy of an 81-year-old woman who suffered fatal injuries when attacked in the middle of the night in her Farmington apartment showed she was stabbed to death, a spokeswoman at the Maine Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said Wednesday.
Authorities said Grace Burton, who lived at the Margaret Chase Smith Apartments elderly housing complex at 195 Fairbanks Road, died from multiple stab wounds to her head and torso. Before she died at a Lewiston hospital at about 7 a.m. Tuesday, Burton described her assailant as having a “slim” mustache, Maine State Police Lt. Brian McDonough told reporters Wednesday at the Troop B barracks.
“This was a very violent attack against a virtually defenseless grandmother,” McDonough said.
The suspect, believed to be male, apparently gained entry to her home by cutting a screen at an unlocked back window on the first floor.
McDonough pleaded for assistance from the public in learning the identity of the attacker. He would have cuts on his hands and fingers and possibly elsewhere on his body, likely inflicted by himself during the stabbing. He would be lying low, avoiding work and friends and may be wearing gloves and long-sleeved shirts to hide his wounds.
McDonough said there was no indication that Burton had used a knife to try to fend off her attacker.
Police said they believe the suspect is from the Farmington area. Anyone with information about him is urged to call Maine State Police, but should not confront the suspect.
The amount of blood at the scene suggests the suspect suffered a “significant laceration” during the attack, McDonough said. The suspect’s DNA, collected at the scene, is in the process of being run through Maine and national DNA databases for a possible match, McDonough said. Police also are checking area hospitals for patients matching the assailant’s description.
The lieutenant confirmed that dive teams on Tuesday were searching nearby ponds for the knife used in the attack. Police had also looked for the weapon in storm drains, but as of Wednesday afternoon had not found it.
McDonough said it was possible the attacker and Burton had been acquainted.
McDonough declined to comment on what motive the suspect may have had in breaking into Burton’s home. Police also would not say what, if anything, had been taken from the home. Authorities have canvassed the area, talking to more than 50 people, McDonough said.
Burton gave a brief description of her attacker that matched a description given by a witness who said a man was seen running from the area of Burton’s apartment Tuesday morning. He was described as a man of small to medium build, about 5 feet, 8 inches tall, wearing dark clothing and a black hooded sweat shirt and carrying a black backpack.
Burton died Tuesday morning at Central Maine Medical Center after she was flown from Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington. She had been able to call 911 shortly after 1 a.m. Tuesday to report the attack.
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