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Massachusetts Suspect Captured In Westport Is Convicted Of Murder

A cell phone image taken by Plumed Serpent Bridal Salon owner Alison Hetrick Fischer shows police taking Thomas Gardner into custody in 2011.
A cell phone image taken by Plumed Serpent Bridal Salon owner Alison Hetrick Fischer shows police taking Thomas Gardner into custody in 2011. Photo Credit: Alison Hetrick Fischer

WESTPORT, Conn. -- A Massachusetts man who was arrested in Westport in 2011 after a five-hour manhunt has been convicted of first-degree murder.

Thomas Gardner, 36, of New Bedford, faces life in prison after a jury found him guilty Tuesday in the 2011 beating death of Michael Duarte, according to a story on www.southcoasttoday.com .

A conviction for first-degree murder in Massachusetts carries an automatic sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole.

Prosecutor Katie Rayburn said the motive for the murder was robbery and Gardner stole money, a cellphone and a car from the victim after killing him, according to the website's story. Gardner beat Duarte 14-18 times with a hammer, wrapped his body in painter's tarps, hid the body under some stairs, and fled in his car, Rayburn said, according to the website's article.

Gardner was arrested several days later after he led police on a chase -- in the car he stole from Duarte -- from Fairfield through Westport before fleeing on foot behind the Westport Country Playhouse.

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