LUMBERTON — A 62-year-old man who had for decades led a relatively quiet life in St. Pauls has begun a 2,500-mile journey to San Diego, where he stands accused of murdering a 79-year-old woman in 1987.
According to Erich Hackney, an investigator with the District Attorney’s Office, Kevin Thomas Ford, who had lived with his wife on N.C. 20 West, was surrendered on Saturday to the custody of two San Diego District Attorney investigators and was scheduled to be transported to an undisclosed airport for the flight westward. Hackney said Ford was cooperative.
Once in San Diego, Ford is expected to be formally charged with the murder of Grace Hayden, who was raped before she was killed, and placed under a $2 million bond. Ford is expected to appear in court early this week when bond will again be addressed, an attorney assigned to his defense and his next court date scheduled.
The California cold case got hot earlier this year when Tony Johnson, an investigator with the San Diego District Attorney’s Office, began looking with fresh eyes at the Hayden case. According to the San Diego website on cold cases, Hayden, who was a widow, lived alone in a single-bedroom home at 4400 36th St. in the Normal Heights area of San Diego. She had a daily visit by a home-care professional and a weekly visit by a social worker and was last seen alive on May 19, 1987. She was found dead the next day.
Johnson found that there existed as evidence a fingerprint of a person’s left index finger, a palm print and some DNA. He decided to run the fingerprint through a national data base and scored a hit with Ford, who he found was living in Robeson County. The fingerprint was taken by Deputy John Blount when he investigated an allegation of Ford making threats.
Johnson contacted Hackney and Ford was later stopped while driving, taken to the Sheriff’s Office and DNA taken from him. After the DNA matched that taken from the crime scene, he was arrested at his home and had been in the county jail since.
Ford has denied killing Hayden, but admits to being in San Diego at the time. He said he was divorced, a cocaine addict and was living on the streets. He told investigators he did not recall ever being in Hayden’s home, but said he might have been while working for a transport service that provide rides to elderly people and others for health services.