Fugitive in Villa Park wife's slaying to return to Illinois next week
A U.S. Navy recruiter accused of fatally stabbing his pregnant wife in Villa Park waived extradition Thursday, a week after authorities nabbed him at a Wyoming homeless shelter, ending his 10-week run from the law.
Eric Gilford agreed in Teton County court to return to Illinois to face charges alleging first-degree murder and intentional homicide of an unborn child. Sheriff's deputies are expected to escort Gilford back to DuPage County early next week, prosecutors said.
Nearly a dozen police officers closed in on Gilford Aug. 5 while he was eating a piece of marble cake after dinner at the Good Samaritan Mission in Jackson, Wyo.
Gilford, 31, was unarmed and did not resist arrest.
He checked into the homeless shelter July 30 under the alias Brian Woolman, a 23-year-old Lisle man whose identity Gilford is accused of stealing from military records. Authorities were led to Gilford after he tried to obtain an identification card at the Wyoming Department of Transportation using the alias, according to Teton County Sheriff's Detective Gary Shaw. Police later found a birth certificate bearing Woolman's name among Gilford's belongings at the shelter, Shaw said.
"He was apparently attempting to establish a new identity," he said.
Police had hunted Gilford since his bride, Kristine, 35, was found clinging to life May 26 after suffering multiple stab wounds. The Downers Grove couple married in February and were expecting their first child together in October.
Kristine left Gilford in the weeks leading up to the alleged attack, though, and had been staying in an apartment on the 300 block of North Ardmore Avenue in Villa Park with another man.
Neighbors found Kristine's daughter, Gracie Mae, wandering outside the apartment after the attack as her badly injured mother struggled to breathe. Kristine Gilford, who grew up in Arlington Heights and attended high school in Naperville, died shortly later.
The violence occurred on Gracie May's fourth birthday. The child was not injured.
Officers located Eric Gilford's abandoned black 2008 Dodge Charger in an architectural firm parking lot in downtown Fargo, N.D., a day after the murder, but he was nowhere to be found. The trail soon grew cold.
Early last week, U.S. Marshals officials tracked the fugitive to the Seattle, Wash., area where they learned he had been staying under the alias at a homeless shelter, but Gilford again was gone.
Authorities finally closed in on him last Thursday in the Wyoming resort town, which is about 900 miles from Fargo, a couple hours after he attempted to get the new identification card in Woolman's name.
"As we were walking out the dormitory area, I looked in the dining room and I immediately recognized Eric Gilford from looking at his photographs earlier," Shaw said. "He was unmistakable. I said, 'Eric,' and he looked up at me and said, 'Yes.' I told him he was under arrest."
He said Gilford appeared surprised.
"I took him by the wrist, and as I did so his arm went totally limps," Shaw said. "The realization that it was over had dawned upon him at that point."
Officials at the Wyoming shelter described Gilford as a "clean-cut, college kid" who was polite, helpful and eager to find work.
"The guy was quiet in an odd way, it almost gave one the impression he was hiding something," said James Guffey, who said he bunked near Gilford at the Wyoming shelter. "He never said much, except he was from Illinois. He read some fantasy book the whole time he was here. He even helped in the kitchen assisting the cook prepare meals. His cover was good."
Jackson Hole News&Guide reporter Sarah Reese contributed to this report.