Relatives say Carolyn Clark wanted to leave religious group
Deitra Butts of Atlanta, Ga., and Alicia Taylor of Columbia, S.C., both close relatives of the murdered Carolyn Clark, 43, said in separate interviews that victim Carolyn Clark’s desire to leave a strict cult-like group in Jefferson area sparked outrage in the group’s elders.
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“That church has complete control of their members,” Taylor said.
Carolyn Clark, who’s 23-year marriage to Ralph Clark was arranged, became distraught when her own 17-year-old daughter was to be married by church arrangement, Butts said.
Taylor and Butts said Carolyn Clark’s desire to save her daughter, one of 13 children, from an arranged marriage may have been a fatal decision.
“She began to see the abuse to the children and she didn’t want any part of it anymore. She started talking about what they do in the church and her husband put her out,” Taylor said.
Carolyn Clark died at the Ashtabula County Medical Center at 2:55 a.m. Saturday after being found in a Park Avenue apartment, Coroner Robert Malinowski said.
Police were dispatched to the apartment at 2:03 a.m. for a domestic violence situation, Capt. Jerry Cornelius of the Ashtabula Police Department said.
Cornelius said police have a suspect in custody and the death is still under investigation by the APD and the coroner’s office.
The suspect’s identity is being withheld pending today’s arraignment and police plan to release information today regarding the death, Cornelius said.
“I’ve talked to the chief and I talked to the city solicitor and I’ve released all the information I can,” Cornelius said.
Taylor said Carolyn Clark was badly beaten.
“The church is going to make it look like a domestic violence case and that isn’t right. My cousin deserves better than that. She deserves to have the truth come out,” Taylor said.
The cause of death is pending an autopsy report from the Cuyahoga County coroner’s office, Malinowski said.
Ralph Clark, Carolyn Clark’s husband of 23 years, filed for divorce in February. Ralph Clark was granted temporary custody of the couple’s eight minor children, Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court records show.
Carolyn Clark, whose address is listed as 1031 Morgan Road, Plymouth Township, was separated from Ralph Clark, and was living in an apartment at 4227 Park Ave., Malinowski said.
No one answered calls at the church Sunday night.
According to court records, Carolyn Clark filed a temporary restraining order against Ralph Clark in March and also petitioned to dissolve the temporary custody order.
Carolyn Clark was found guilty of domestic violence in October in Ashtabula Municipal Court and paid a $500 fine and served one day in jail for the offense, court records show.
Ashtabula County Children’s Services community services coordinator Nick Kerosky could not confirm if the Clarks’ eight minor children were in the custody of the county, but said they will investigate any allegations of abuse.
“In any situation, our number one concern is the children. If a child is in danger, we are responsible and we will do anything we can to help in any given situation to make sure these children are protected,” Kerosky said.
Ashtabula police and the coroner’s office are still investigating the death, Cornelius said.
“It’s a serious matter and I don’t want to jeopardize the investigation,” he said.
Staff writer Warren Dillaway contributed to this story.