Suspected rapist dies in jail

Howard Garfield

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The 81-year-old Maryland man charged last week with raping a 9-year-old Cortland girl was found dead Sunday in his jail cell.

Cecil County, Md. Jail officials said Howard Garfield, 81, of Towson, Md., went into cardiac arrest at about 12:45 p.m., hours before area law enforcement set off to bring Garfield back to Trumbull County to face two counts of raping the girl.

Cecil County Sheriff Lt. Michael Holmes said jail staff performed CPR on Garfield, then took him to Union Hospital in Elkton, Md., where he was pronounced dead.

Maryland’s Chief Medical Examiner is performing the autopsy. Holmes said there was no suspicious circumstances surrounding Garfield’s death and there was no indication of suicide.

The criminal case against Garfield started when a social worker at a Veterans Affairs Hospital in Maryland contacted Cortland Police after Garfield said he was having suicidal thoughts and admitted to sexually assaulting the girl while on a camping trip in Cortland, according to a Trumbull County prosecutor’s arrest affidavit. The girl, now 11, was between 9 and 10 years old at the time.

Garfield told the VA social worker he sent the girl sexually explicit text messages and that he “likes little girls,” the affidavit says.

The social worker contacted Cortland police May 3 and officers notified the girl’s family in Cortland.

The girl’s mother told police Howard was a longtime family friend and had extensive interaction with her family and children. The girl’s mother also said she recently discovered the girl received sexually laced text messages from Howard. The messages included references to the two cuddling, kissing and bathing together. Garfield also referred to the victim as his “girlfriend” in the text messages.

Police in Baltimore issued a search warrant at Garfield residence in Townson. On their first interview, Garfield denied the allegations and said he never made any statements to hospital personnel about a sexual assault. Later, he admitted to digitally assaulting the girl on two separate occasions within a two-year period when she was 9 and 10 years old inside a camper on the family’s property in Cortland.

Garfield also admitted to sexually assaulting his ex-wife’s sister when he was 22 years old and the girl was 9.

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