Custody dispute led to murder
Ashtabula – Ralph Clark said he killed his wife, Carolyn, last May because he could not handle the pressure of her fleeing the state with his youngest children.
“That made me snap,” Clark, 50, said at his sentencing Wednesday in Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court.
The father of 13 children will spend life in prison with no parole for 28 years for beating his wife to death with a rifle.
“She was a beautiful personality, but inside she was a monster,” said Clark. “I loved her, but she had everyone fooled.”
Clark pleaded guilty last week to aggravated murder.
He blamed the Juvenile Court system for removing his five youngest children after his wife complained about cult-like practices and discipline at the Apostolic Faith Church Body of Jesus Christ of the Newborn Assembly.
She planned to move to Virginia and hoped to convince Clark to leave the church as well, her lawyer said.
“She was snatching my kids and moving out of state. I couldn’t handle that,” Clark said. “It would be unbearable for any human being to lose their children.”
Michael Butts, Carolyn’s older brother, said Clark’s justification is ridiculous.
“His attorney said he was frustrated. So what? Murder is still not an option,” Butts said. “He is the monster.”
Ashtabula County Prosecutor Thomas Sartini said Clark used murder to resolve a custody dispute.
“Whoever she was, she did not deserve to have her brains beat out in front of her children,” Sartini said.
“Those kids will never ever forget how their mother died.”
Common Pleas Judge Ronald Vettel said the youngest children, now in foster homes, are the real victims.
“The horror is indelibly etched in their minds,” he said.
“If you are going to pray for anything, pray for them.”