Homeless man charged in death of 72-year-old Wichita woman

December 31, 2019 GMT

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A homeless man has been charged with killing a 72-year-old Wichita woman during a sexual assault.

Fifty-five-year-old John Pepper was charged Monday in Sedgwick County District Court with capital murder in the death of Rita Golden. Prosecutors allege her death occurred during the commission of an aggravated criminal sodomy, The Wichita Eagle reports.

Pepper has been jailed on burglary and theft charges stemming from an unrelated incident. Golden was found unresponsive in her home in July.

A doctor listed her cause of death as high blood pressure combined with an irregular heartbeat — adding that injuries to her body would have resulted in severe stress, causing the cardiac arrhythmia. She had multiple blunt force trauma injuries and possible asphyxia by smothering, as well as emphysema and lung conditions.

The autopsy report said Golden had been letting a homeless man stay in her yard and that he would occasionally come inside to eat or sleep. The report said Wichita police found the homeless man hiding in a bedroom closet.

Prosecutors allege in court documents that “the victim was particularly vulnerable due to age, infirmity, or reduced physical or mental capacity.”

Prosecutors can pursue the death penalty in a capital murder case, although they haven’t filed a notice indicating that they plan to do so.

Pepper is jailed on a $1 million bond in the capital murder case, and has an additional $50,000 bond in the other case. It wasn’t immediately known if he had an attorney.