Saturday, August 1, 2009

Murder conspirator to go free

July 31, 2009 12:29 PM

A woman sent to prison for life in 1987 for driving her boyfriend around Jacksonville while he viciously stabbed her estranged husband to death in the backseat is set to go free today.

Bonnie Sue Clark, 50, will be paroled today from the Raleigh Correctional Center for Women after serving nearly 22 years of her sentence.

She was convicted in August 1987 of first-degree murder and conspiracy in the February 1987 death of her husband, Glennie L. Clark, a Camp Lejeune Marine staff sergeant.

The case garnered national media attention when Clark, who is white, received a sentence of life plus three years, but her boyfriend, Robert Bacon Jr., who is black, was sentenced to die a few months earlier. Bacon was tried in Onslow County; Bonnie Clark’s trial was moved to Duplin County.

Citing what it called “the obvious disparity between the treatment of a white and a black defendant in this case,” the American Civil Liberties Union, and other critics of the death penalty, called for Bacon’s sentence to be commuted.

Lawyers with the ACLU also contended the jury that sentenced Bacon did not know his cooperation led police to discover Clark’s involvement, which is a statutory mitigating factor in a capital case, according to state law.

In 2001, then-Gov. Mike Easley commuted Bacon’s death sentence.

“I am satisfied that the prosecutors and judges acted fairly and professionally in this case,” Easley said in a press release at the time. “However, as Governor, my review of the matter in its totality causes me to conclude that the appropriate sentence for the defendant is life without parole.”

Recently retired Jacksonville police Capt. Gary Dixon worked the case in 1987.

“In my 30 years of law enforcement this is the worst case of justice gone … wrong that I have ever seen,” he told The Daily News on Thursday. “This woman lured her husband to his death and casually drove through Brynn Marr while he was stabbed to death.”

Dixon said he refused to attend one of Bacon’s scheduled executions because Bonnie Clark had not also received the death penalty.

“I didn’t think it was fair to watch him die knowing she should have gotten the same damn thing,” he said. “When she devised a plan to murder her husband, she gave him a death sentence, and now the parole board has let her walk free.”

Bonnie Clark had left her husband and moved in with Bacon. Glennie Clark had a life insurance policy worth $130,000, and investigators found travel brochures for Florida and the Caribbean in Bacon and Bonnie Clark’s home, according to published reports at the time.

Witnesses found the Clarks in Glennie Clark’s car outside a movie theater at 11 p.m. Glennie Clark had been stabbed more than 30 times and Bonnie Clark had a serious bruise on her head. She told arriving police that they had been robbed, according to court records.

Bonnie Clark later admitted to investigators that she helped plan and carry out the murder of her husband. She admitted in court that she drove her husband’s car through a subdivision while Bacon stabbed Glennie Clark to death, and then they staged the scene in front of the theater to make the slaying look like a robbery.

Bonnie Clark testified she and Bacon had set a trap for her husband the night before, but the plan was thwarted by a Jacksonville police officer on a routine patrol.

Bonnie Clark testified during her trial that she only went along with Bacon out of fear and he was “calling the shots.” She also told jurors her husband was an abusive drunk.

District Attorney Dewey Hudson said they both deserved execution and their crime was a financially motivated case of “cold-blooded murder born of greed.”

“I am appalled the parole commission would even consider this,” said Hudson, the chief prosecutor for the Fourth Prosecutorial District, which includes Onslow County.

As an assistant to then-district attorney Bill Andrews, Hudson prosecuted Clark.

“She should never get out,” Hudson said. “Someone who planned such a gruesome crime should stay in jail forever.”

Contact Lindell Kay at 910-219-8456. Read his blog here.

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