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Clarke gets life in baseball bat killing


A Deschutes County jury on Wednesday found Richard Clarke guilty of murder in the baseball-bat beating death of his roommate, Matthew Fitzhenry.

Jurors announced they had reached a verdict after their lunch recess and the verdict was read to a packed courtroom shortly after 1 p.m. That was less than four hours after beginning their deliberations.

First responders found Fitzhenry beaten and barely alive in his home on October 17th 2010. The 36-year-old died during his ambulance ride to St. Charles in Bend.

Fitzhenry’s family members held hands during the verdict. Clarke’s family clutched tissues and fought back tears.

Clarke was immediately sentenced in the Measure 11 crime to life in prison, with no time off for good behavior. He will have the chance to apply for parole after serving 25 years of that sentence.

Sentencing often occurs at a later date, but the choice is up to the defendant, prosecutors said.

“He’s a murderer, he’s a sociopath, and I don’t have a lot of respect for him,” Deputy DA Van McIver said after the verdict. “I’m just glad he’s going to lose a little more time,” a reference to Clarke’s tattoos on his knuckles, which read “Lost Time.”

Since sentencing took place right after the verdict, Deschutes County Circuit Judge Stephen Forte allowed Fitzhenry’s mother, Cheryl Fitzhenry, to speak in court, as is customary at sentencing hearings.

“He was my first-born child,” she said. “I know where he is. I have strong faith.”

“This defendant has destroyed so many people, not only his own family,” she said. “I can’t even hate him. He’s a sociopath.”

Cheryl Fitzhenry offered her dark hopes for Clarke’s future.

“From this day forward, it’s my prayer that he live and be tortured every day in his mind, every waking moment, every sleeping moment, that he will have nightmares,” she said.

“I hope Clarke suffers every day in jail,” the victim’s mother added. “One day, you’ll be tortured enough that you will fall on his knees and pray for God’s forgiveness.”

Forte also spoke to Clarke, saying the court agreed with what the victim’s mother had said: “You’re narcissistic and Fitzhenry didn’t deserve” what Clarke did to him.

Deschutes County District Attorney Patrick Flaherty praised McIver for his first murder case and the Bend Police Department for helping put a killer behind bars.

“”He’s a sociopathic narcissistic who was lying through his teeth — and the jury saw through that,” Flaherty told me.

McIver told me he wishes he could do more for the Fitzhenry family.

“I know they don’t feel any better — there’s no good outcome here. But hopefully this will give them a little bit of closure and so they can move on,” said McIver.

On Tuesday, prosecutors took their final shots at Clarke, 27, in closing arguments of the 4-week trial.

McIver told jurors, “This is not a hard case,” saying Clarke had beaten Fitzhenry with a pink baseball bat in a jealous rage.

But Clarke’s attorney, Jacques DeKalb came back in his final statement, saying the forensic evidence the state has linking Clarke to the murder only proves he was there — not that he was the actual killer.

DeKalb pleaded with jurors to not make assumptions and use their common sense, noting one piece of evidence in the case he believed to be flawed — the condition of the baseball bat.

DeKalb suggested the bat was planted near McMenamins in downtown Bend not directly after the murder but later, possibly even planted there. DeKalb told jurors the bat was dry when police found it, even though the ground around it was wet from sprinklers.

“The bat was put in the bushes when it was dry. Why is that important?” asked DeKalb. “It’s because the bat wasn’t put there by Richard Clarke after the murder.”

DeKalb went on to say Fitzhenry was killed when a fight escalated when Clarke, a man named Matthew Middleton and Clarke’s other roommate, Chris Hodgkin, tried to scare Fitzhenry into leaving the house.

“He wasn’t intending to kill Matthew Fitzhenry. He didn’t know that was going to happen,” said DeKalb.

DeKalb told jurors Fitzhenry pushed Middleton, and Middleton began hitting him with a baseball bat.

“That shove — that he didn’t predict, Chris Hodgkin probably didn’t predict, Shannon Kelley didn’t predict — is what caused the murder of Matthew Fitzhenry, Mr. Clarke was not a part of that,” said DeKalb.

McIver began his closing argument calm and collected, speaking about Fitzhenry. He told jurors this case is riddled with drugs and bad decisions, but it’s also about a person. Fitzhenry, who McIver said was a son, a brother and a young father, who was brutally murdered.

“Like a coward, he (Clarke) sneaks up on him and hits him with a baseball bat,” said McIver. “Then he continues to hit him, over and over and over, while he’s on the ground.”

McIver went on with more of the same, telling jurors Clarke decided himself that Matthew Fitzhenry didn’t deserve to breathe the same air as him.

“Clarke put him down so he could never get back up, so he could never, never, redeem himself,” said McIver.

McIver told the jury there is “nothing more serious” than the severity of this case.

Clarke’s demeanor was anything but serious when he entered the courtroom Tuesday morning. He was joking with his lawyers, and his mood only really turned somber once closing arguments got going. He shook his head in disbelief to much of what the prosecution had to say, but sat upright and alert when it was his defense team’s turn.

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