Crime & Courts

The loss and the mystery after two men charged in death of 88-year-old Wichita man

Floyd Gilbert
Floyd Gilbert Courtesy photo

Abner “Corkey” Gilbert knew that his father, Floyd, wouldn’t live forever.

Floyd Gilbert was 88. He lived alone. He had toiled as a sheet-metal worker for Wichita aircraft plants and had settled at the back of a tree-lined mobile home park off MacArthur between Seneca and Meridian. What set his home apart were arrangements of distinctive rocks — collected for years and displayed on his lawn and porch, leading to a “Welcome” sign on his door.

His 56-year-old son had mentally prepared himself for the moment he might find his father after he had breathed his last breath.

Still, Corkey Gilbert said, tears welling, “In a million years, I never thought this is how his life would end.”

The son alluded to a grim fact: Floyd Gilbert’s death is Wichita’s 43rd homicide of the year. Corkey Gilbert found his father’s body in his home this past Thursday night.

On Tuesday, prosecutors charged Landon Onek, 54, and Austin Stewart, 36, with first-degree murder, aggravated robbery and two counts of theft in connection with Floyd Gilbert’s death. Stewart’s bond was set at $500,000; Onek’s at $250,000.

The charges say that the two men murdered Gilbert during a robbery Thursday and that they stole his car, worth $1,500 to less than $25,000, and some of his other property, worth less than $1,500.

It’s not the first time that the two new murder defendants have been accused of robbing or stealing, records show.

Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity. (Nicole L. Cvetnic / McClatchy)

The mystery

If the two men committed the crime, how did they come together? It’s too early in the process for police or prosecutors to say.

But records show the two have long criminal histories. Both have been in legal trouble for using methamphetamine, the highly addictive and destructive illegal drug that is a common factor in so many Wichita crimes, authorities say.

Onek was already a wanted man at the time police arrested him in Gilbert’s death. On Nov. 26, three days before Gilbert’s son found his body, a judge revoked Onek’s bond in a drug case and signed a warrant for his arrest.

Onek was wanted because he had violated conditions of his bond. He was facing a Dec. 10 sentencing after pleading guilty to meth possession. Under a plea agreement, he was to receive probation. As part of the agreement, he was supposed to undergo a substance abuse evaluation.

The death

The only part of the police report on Floyd Gilbert’s death that is public gives little information. The form says his death is classified as “Murder.” Under “Type of Force/Weapon,” police checked the box for “None.”

Corkey Gilbert didn’t want to share details of where he found his father’s body and what he saw. The autopsy report, which is designed to give a cause and manner of death, isn’t yet available.

The son went to his father’s home Thursday night because he hadn’t heard from him in two days. Corkey Gilbert was worried.

Right off, the son noticed that his father’s car wasn’t outside. Corkey Gilbert hoped that Floyd Gilbert hadn’t driven off and become disoriented. “He always tries to be home before dark,” Corkey Gilbert said.

It took the son a while to find his father’s body after he went inside.

Less than 24 hours after the son found the body — Wichita police emailed a statement to media saying they had arrested Onek and Stewart on suspicion of felony murder.

Earlier, police explained, at about 8:15 p.m. Thursday, officers responded to a “check-the-welfare call” at a Floyd Gilbert’s home in the 2200 block of West MacArthur. Officers saw “injuries to his body,” the statement said. He had died in his home.

Police noted that his red 1999 Chevy Monte Carlo was missing. As part of their investigation, police found the missing car.

Who is Stewart?

According to state records, Stewart was convicted of burglary, theft and drug possession for crimes committed in 2003 in Sedgwick County; he was convicted of aggravated robbery and fleeing police in Sumner County in 2004; he was convicted of aggravated escape from custody in 2008 in Sedgwick County. His sentence expired in 2014.

In 2013, he had been charged with felony aggravated battery over an incident in which he allegedly beat someone with a bat. But the charge was changed to a less serious misdemeanor, and he received probation. While on probation, he tested positive for meth. A judge extended his probation by nine months.

In 2015, a Wichita man who filed a petition for protection from stalking against Stewart wrote this about Stewart: “Stewart is violent, has had previous felonies, is a danger to our family.”

According to Stewart’s Facebook pages, he is from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has lived in Derby and Wichita and has studied at WSU Tech.

Who is Onek?

According to state records, Onek was convicted of several charges in Cowley County over the years: theft and criminal damage to property in 2013, criminal possession of a firearm and possession of drug paraphernalia in 2016.

Onek wrote on a financial affidavit for his meth case this past August that he was living in the 400 block of North Emporia and was unemployed.

In late 2015, his Facebook page cover photo was a Confederate flag. According to his Facebook page, he was living in Winfield then. In the text below, there’s a text graphic that says “Living day to day without committing a felony is a lot harder than you think.”

And he followed that with this caption: “If you only knew the way how true that was.”