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YORK, S.C. -- York police are searching for the man who killed former York Mayor Melvin Roberts.

Police say 78-year-old Roberts walked in on the robbery around 7:30 p.m. Thursday and was attacked by a suspect who had already tied up a woman in the home.

Coroner Sabrina Gast says Roberts' body was found in a driveway, but she would not say how he died.

Police say the woman freed herself and called 911. They did not release her name.

The attacker is described as a man who spoke with an accent. He's between 5-feet-9 and 5-feet-11, and 200 to 240 pounds.

Thursday night, York town officials lowered flags to half-staff in memory of Roberts, 78, who is survived by two sons.

In the 1960s, Roberts helped develop the neighborhood north of York near S.C. 49, and he built his two-story home with a circular driveway and indoor swimming pool there.

Originally from the small farming community of McConnells, S.C., about 10 miles south of York, Roberts was a popular defense attorney for 50 years, known for working seven days a week and winning a lot of cases, current Mayor Eddie Lee said.

Melvin Roberts in a courtroom was dynamic, Lee said Thursday night. He did many favors for folks.

Roberts was able to parlay his success in the courtroom into an eight-year stint on the city council in the 1960s. He was elected to a two-year term as mayor in 1972.

He ran unsuccessfully several times for the town council, including last year. He also lost a 1976 bid for the S.C. Senate.

In the 1960s, Roberts was the first to bring an automatic car wash to York. And he fought -- and lost -- a battle with S.C. authorities to run unmanned, coin-operated gas stations in York.

(The Charlotte Observer contributed.)

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