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Body Found at Home of Suspect Nabbed After Manhunt

WESTPORT, Conn. – The body of a 36-year-old man was found in an unoccupied house in New Bedford, Mass., believed to be owned by Thomas Gardner, who was arrested Wednesday after a manhunt in Westport , the Bristol County district attorney's office reported.

The body, identified as Michael Duarte of New Bedford, was discovered by New Bedford Police and Massachusetts State Police detectives Wednesday evening at 1058 Churchill St., the district attorney's office said. Gardner is listed as a resident at that address, according to the White Pages.

The cause of Duarte's death was not known, but police were treating it as a homicide. An autopsy is expected to be performed Thursday, the statement said. No further information was immediately available about the suspected homicide.

The New Bedford Standard-Times reports Duarte was reported missing Saturday, after he had gone to look at the home at 1058 Churchill St., which is for sale. Duarte’s girlfriend, Sarah Varley, told the newspaper Duarte was scheduled to meet with Gardner at the home Saturday morning.

"He just never came home,” Varley told the Standard-Times .

Gardner, 35, was arrested in Westport after a five-hour manhunt that began after he led Westport and Fairfield police on a high-speed chase on Interstate 95. The chase began in Fairfield after police began to pursue the car, reportedly stolen out of Massachusetts.

Westport police joined the chase and followed the vehicle as it got off I-95 at Exit 18. The chase continued through Westport and ended when Gardner ditched the car behind the Westport Country Playhouse. He ran into the woods after the car's tires were damaged by a police spike strip, police said.

Westport and Fairfield police set up a perimeter behind the Playhouse and several K-9 units were called in to assist with the search. Gardner was apprehended around 4:40 p.m. after police received a reported sighting at the Playhouse Square shopping plaza.

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