, 2015

Sheriff’s investigation
into the disappearance of
Claudine Gifford continues

by Audrey Thomasson

LANCASTER—Sheriff’s investigators last week executed a search warrant at the home of James Todd Kessler, 53, of Cox’s Farm Road in Weems. Kessler was recently named a “person of interest” in the disappearance of Claudine Jaquier Gifford, 44.

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Lieutenant Tim Self, chief of the investigation unit, would not disclose the contents of the search warrant or if any evidence was found at the residence, saying the warrant was sealed.

In July, a search of Kessler’s property was conducted without a warrant but with his permission, according to Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Kenny Kunkle.

Gifford was last seen with Kessler leaving Pelicans at the Point tiki bar on July 6. Extensive search efforts by volunteer and state resources failed to find any trace of the missing woman.

Kessler previously told investigators that the night Gifford disappeared, four white males helped her into a silver Nissan SUV because she was too intoxicated to walk, according to Lt. Self.

While Kessler said they left the bar at 8:30 p.m., witnesses told Gifford’s husband, Richard, that Kessler and Gifford left the bar at 6:30 p.m., and that he carried her to his car.

Two weeks later, on July 19, an alleged altercation between Kessler and a couple at the same bar resulted in his arrest on charges of felony aggravated malicious wounding and misdemeanor assault and battery. The charges are unrelated to the investigation into Gifford’s disappearance.

Kessler is currently being held in Lancaster County jail and was denied bond.

A preliminary hearing on the charges is scheduled for 11 a.m. September 3 in Lancaster General District Court.

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