Rapid City police arrested Gilbert Li Clifford, 33, of Rapid City, on a preliminary charge of second-degree murder Tuesday afternoon after a 61-year-old man was found unconscious in a motel room.

The victim was declared dead at Rapid City Regional Hospital, and the preliminary investigation showed he died of blunt force trauma, police said in a release Tuesday morning.

The victim's name was being withheld so relatives could be notified, police said.

Responding to a phone tip, police found the man around 3 a.m. in a first-floor room at the Stardust Motel, 520 E. North St.

Stardust owner John Ashley said the victim had been staying at his motel for about a month and had been living alone. He declined to give the man's name.

Amber Glenn said she was watching TV in bed around 1 a.m. Tuesday when her dog started barking. She heard two men arguing in the alley behind her room at the motel.

When Glenn looked out her second-floor window, she saw a man in his 30s trying to grab a bottle from an older man before stabbing him and fleeing.

“He stabbed him once,” Glenn said inside the room she shares with her boyfriend. “I saw him pull something silver out of his pants.”

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Capt. James Johns, head of criminal investigations, declined to confirm if the victim was stabbed, citing the ongoing investigation.

The motel’s back alley was cordoned off Tuesday morning while evidence was collected from the snow-covered ground. A black coat could be seen lying behind the motel, near the steps that led to the victim’s room. At least one patrol car was parked at each end of the alley.

Ashley said the Stardust no longer has security cameras after people kept destroying them. But he said that business establishments around the motel, including a car wash that faces the alley, might have video footage of the confrontation.

The homicide is the second in Rapid City this year. The first was the fatal shooting of a 23-year-old man in a storage facility on the city’s northeast side in June for which a Rapid City man has been charged with murder.

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Cops and Courts Reporter

Cops and courts reporter for the Rapid City Journal