Husband returns after 22-hour drive to devastating scene of double murder
WHITE BLUFF (AP) — New Year’s Day found trucker Bill Clark in Maine, far from his Tennessee home and awaiting a morning call from his wife. When it didn’t come, Clark decided to call himself.
Instead, a detective answered with devastating news. His wife and mother had been fatally shot.
On Wednesday, Clark arrived back in Tennessee after a 22-hour trip. He was dazed, confused and furious with the state and foster care agencies for placing the two teens accused in the murders of Mary Clark, 39, and Gail Clark, 66, who was visiting from Orange, Mass.
“I drove from Maine, and hell came with me,” said Clark, 50. “I’m angry. I’m hurt. I’m upset. I’ve got emotions I don’t even know what they are. I don’t know what I’m doing.”
District Attorney General Dan Alsobrooks said Wednesday he wants to try as adults Jeffery Byrd Johnson Jr., 15, and James Earl Garrett, 17, who are charged with first-degree murder in the fatal shootings.
The two women were found shot to death in separate rooms of Mary Clark’s home in rural White Bluff, about 25 miles west of Nashville.
Alsobrooks said attorneys J. Rease Holley and Jarred Creasy were representing the teenagers. A message left at Holley’s office was not immediately returned. A listing for Creasy could not be found Wednesday afternoon.
Investigators believe there was a motive in the slayings, but Davis would not give details.
Clark said police told him the women were shot execution-style. He said he was told his mother had been shot in the back and that his wife appeared to have been shot in the head.
He said he can’t imagine why his foster children would kill his mother and wife, and said there was no indication either teen was violent. Johnson had been with the Clarks for a month and a half and Garrett had been with them for several weeks.
“I can’t picture Jeff (Johnson) doing this,” Clark said. “Jeff’s issues were very minor. He punched a kid in the eye when he was in school.”
“James (Garrett) was quiet. He stayed to himself,” Clark said. “There was something about that kid I couldn’t put my finger on.”
Both foster parents had been working as contractors since last year with an agency called Phoenix Homes, which works with the state to place foster children in homes, said Rob Johnson, a spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Children Services. He said Clark has cared for five children during that time, but was only in custody of the two teenagers at the time of the shooting.
The Clarks were operating a level-2 facility, which provides therapeutic care suited for children with behavior or emotional history. Records do not indicate anything in the teenagers’ history that could have triggered the alleged shooting, Johnson said.
Due to child confidentiality laws, Johnson said DCS is restricted from releasing anything more about the teenagers’ history.
The teenagers were being held in the Williamson County Juvenile Detention Facility because Dickson County lacks a juvenile facility. They were scheduled to appear in juvenile court in Charlotte on Friday.
Clark said he was relieved his stepdaughter was with him at the time of the murders, but is devastated she’ll be going to live with her biological father.
He said he spent Wednesday cleaning up his house, where the carpets were soaked with blood. On the chalkboard where his mother was staying, Clark read a final New Year’s message she’d scribbled to him:
“This is your mom speaking. I lived another day, you lucky guy. I love you right up to the sky. Sometimes I wonder why. But mommy loves you, my son, I really do. Happy New Year to you.”
Published in The Messenger 1.3.08