Local News

Assault suspect arrested day after walking out of Cumberland court

Posted January 25, 2011 12:23 p.m. EST
Updated January 26, 2011 11:13 a.m. EST

— One day after a Cumberland County man charged with maiming a boy walked out of plea negotiations and disappeared, authorities arrested him Tuesday afternoon.

Todd Louis Lanford, 36, of 6614 Clinton Road, was taken into custody at about 2:45 p.m. at a Days Inn off U.S. Highway 701 in Clinton, authorities said.

Lanford proclaimed his innocence as authorities led him to the Cumberland County Detention Center.

"I did what I had to do, because the whole time I heard, 'Take a plea. Take a plea. We know you didn't do it, but take a plea.' I will not take a plea for something I did not do," he said.

Lanford was arrested in November 2008 after investigators determined that an 11-year-old Stedman boy had been punched, kicked and choked. The boy also suffered a 3-inch cut along his genitals and bruises to his groin and pelvic area, but he wasn't sexually assaulted, authorities said.

Lanford is charged with assault on a child under the age of 12, first-degree sex offense, taking indecent liberties with a child, assault by strangulation, felonious child abuse inflicting serious injury and malicious castration.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of 90 years in prison, but Debbie Tanna, a spokeswoman for the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, said Lanford's attorney and prosecutors were working on a deal Monday in which he would plead guilty to some charges and receive a 20-year sentence.

"Obviously, he wasn't happy with that," Tanna said.

Lanford, who has been out on a $35,000 bond for two years while awaiting trial, didn't return to the Cumberland County Courthouse on Monday to continue with plea negotiations, Tanna said. Courthouse security wasn't compromised, she said, because Lanford wasn't in custody.

"The reason I didn't show up for court is because, when (my) case is heard in Cumberland County court, I will not get a fair trial," Lanford said. "I thought I had a couple more days of freedom, to be honest with you. I didn't they these guys were going to find me so fast."

He declined to say how he got to the motel or where he was planning to go.

U.S. marshals and other law enforcement officers from across the region helped Cumberland County deputies search for Lanford, who now also faces a failure to appear in court charge.

"I can't say how we actually tracked him down, but that's what we do," Deputy Marshal Brandon Taylor said.

The boy's mother, Tonia Michelle Powers, 37, who was Lanford's girlfriend at the time, was charged with aiding and abetting a felony and accessory after the fact in the case. Her charges are still pending.

The boy now lives with other relatives.