Was killed while trying to flee church she called cult
Clark, 44, of Jefferson, pleaded guilty Friday to the aggravated murder of Carolyn Clark in May.
He told Ashtabula County Common Pleas Judge Ronald Vettel that he intended to kill himself as well, but the rifle broke after he clubbed his wife to death.
In earlier court hearings, Clark said he killed her to prevent her from taking his five younger children out of state.
Ashtabula County Prosecutor Thomas Sartini agreed to drop a lesser murder charge in exchange for the guilty plea. He recommended Clark serve 28 years to life in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Wednesday.
Carolyn Clark’s family declined to comment after the hearing.
Carolyn’s divorce lawyer, Jane Hawn-Jackson, said Carolyn gave her life to protect her children from the Apostolic Faith Church Body of Jesus Christ of the Newborn Assembly in Jefferson.
She feared the control that the church had over Ralph as well as other members.
“I think she would be pleased that she did get her children out,” Hawn-Jackson said. Eight of Clark’s 13 children were placed in the custody of Children’s Services after their mother’s death.
Carolyn Clark was seeking a reconciliation with her husband but hoped to get the family out of the church, Hawn-Jackson said.
In affidavits filed in the case, Carolyn accused church officials of using mind control and physically abusing children with harsh discipline.
She said she was forced to sleep with the church’s bishop.
Church officials and other members denied the allegations in several earlier interviews.
Sartini said prosecutors found no evidence that the church or its leader, Charles Keyes, was involved in Carolyn’s death.
“We heard all kinds of rumors, but we found no evidence the church was complicit in her death,” Sartini said.
Many of the Clarks’ older children have attended court hearings supporting their father.
On Friday, the children were absent and Vettel delayed sentencing to allow them a chance to speak on their father’s behalf.
Sartini said he was relieved Clark entered a plea and avoided forcing the children to relive the horror of their mother’s death.
“They already have to live with the fact that their father killed their mother,” he said.