FARMINGTON – The 81-year-old woman who was attacked in her apartment before dawn Tuesday died from stab wounds, the Maine Medical Examiner’s Office said Wednesday as police asked for help finding Grace Burton’s killer, who may have cut his hands and fingers in the attack.

Investigators believe the assailant may be hiding the cuts by wearing gloves or long sleeves and may have not reported to work Wednesday, said Maine State Police spokesman Steve McCausland.

“His cuts are significant,” McCausland said.

Police are seeking a 5-foot-7-inch man with a small to medium build. They believe he has a small, thin mustache.

The man was last seen walking along Fairbanks Road about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, a half-hour after the home invasion at the Margaret Chase Smith Apartments at 195 Fairbanks Road. He was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and had a black backpack, police said.

“We are making the assumption the assailant is from the local area,” said McCausland, who did not know whether the man fled to a nearby vehicle.

Investigators believe the assailant cut a screen and entered through the unlocked window in the back of Burton’s first-floor apartment.

Blood and other evidence found at the scene are being analyzed at the Maine State Police Crime Lab in Augusta, McCausland said.

He said a knife was used in the attack, and Burton had wounds to her head and torso.

Burton, who called 911 after the attack, was taken by LifeFlight helicopter to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, where she died at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

One of her friends said Wednesday that she was a fighter who overcame breast cancer and survived a bad fall.

“She used to say she was tough as a boiled owl,” said Lois Seamon, 81.

Seamon played cards with Burton pretty much every day, she said, and they talked about everything from politics to local gossip.

They had plans to play cards Wednesday. Seamon said she knows her friend is waiting in heaven to play the game. “She’s up there shuffling the cards, waiting for me,” she said.

The women grew up together in the farmland off Farmington Falls Road. Both moved away after high school and returned home later in life, Seamon said.

McCausland said about 60 people have been interviewed by investigators, who have received several calls from the public about the attack.

“We got some calls, we need more,” he said.

State police are being assisted by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and Farmington police, McCausland said.

Maine State Police can be reached at 657-3030, Farmington police are at 778-6311, and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office is at 778-2680 or 911 on a cellphone. 

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Beth Staples contributed to this report.