BANGOR, Maine — The local man charged in connection with the asphyxiation death of the woman he lived with remained Tuesday night at the Penobscot County Jail after making his first court appearance.
David Coon, 50, is charged with intentional or knowing murder in the death of Sherry Clifford, 49, on Friday at the Jefferson Street apartment the couple shared in Bangor.
Superior Court Justice Ann Murray on Tuesday denied Coon bail but scheduled a May 21 hearing to determine if he is eligible for bail.
He is not expected to enter a plea until after he has been indicted by the Penobscot County grand jury. It next convenes on May 29.
Clifford’s death was ruled a homicide by Dr. Mark Flomenbaum, deputy chief medical examiner, according to the affidavit filed at the Penobscot Judicial Center.
“The death was determined to be caused by asphyxiation with some neck compression,” the affidavit, signed by Bangor police Detective Brent Beaulieu, said. “Dr. Flomenbaum discovered hemorrhaging in the neck region just under the jaw bone. There was also hemorrhaging around Clifford’s hyoid bone.”
The hyoid bone is the U-shaped bone at the base of the tongue.
Coon told police Friday that Clifford had “freaked out” and “attacked him.” He admitted that he “pinned Clifford to the floor and she told him that she could not breathe,” according to the affidavit. “Coon stated that Clifford died while pinned to the floor. Coon said that he had covered Clifford’s mouth with his hand to quiet her.”
In a subsequent interview Monday, “Coon admitted that he was squeezing tightly on Clifford’s face and although he does not recall this, it is possible that his hand may have slid to Clifford’s neck during the incident,” the affidavit said. “Coon also admitted that this altercation may have lasted longer than five minutes as he originally stated.”
Coon called 911 about 6:37 p.m. Friday and said that “‘she OD’ed on … she drank herself to death,’” the affidavit said. When police and Bangor rescue personnel arrived, Clifford was found dead on the floor of their apartment.
All three of Clifford’s adult children were in the courtroom. Keith Clifford led the family out of the courthouse and said they were told not to talk to media, but added they would make a statement when everything was done.
“We’re doing all right,” he answered when asked how the family was faring.
“They’re still in shock,” said family friend Bonnie Scott of Stetson. “They still don’t believe this is happening.”
Scott met Sherry Clifford when both were in high school and they have remained friends over the last three decades. Clifford’s oldest son, Eric, had dinner at her house on Sunday, his first meal since learning of his mother’s death, Scott said.
“Those kids — they were Sherry’s everything,” she said. “They’re the one thing that kept Sherry grounded.”
The last time Scott saw Sherry was Dec. 8.
“Sherry had her problems. She drank. They both drank, but she didn’t deserve to die,” Scott said. “Nobody ever should die by the hands of somebody else. I just want to see justice for Sherry.”
Sherry Clifford was a Bangor native and purchased Bonnie & Clyde Hair Fashions in 1998 or 1999, former owner Debbie Clayton said Tuesday.
“I taught at Delore’s Beauty School when Sherry was a student,” Clayton said. “She was a wonderful student and a great hairdresser. She was very driven.”
So much so that, “she reminded me of me when I bought the salon,” Clayton said.
Clayton ran the salon for about eight years before selling it to another person, who defaulted on the loan, so Clayton sold it to Clifford. Shortly after buying the salon, Clifford moved it from Bangor to Brewer.
“I did stop into the salon when it was at the old location [in Bangor] a couple of times just to see how she had it set up,” Clayton said.
Clayton said she took her daughter to Clifford to have her hair done.
The Bonnie & Clyde salon is still listed in the 2012-13 yellow pages, but the city’s assessing department says the last time Clifford’s Brimmer Street business was open was 2011.
“She was a good hairdresser,” Clayton said. “I don’t know what happened. What I saw in the paper was not … the Sherry I knew.”
At Tuesday’s hearing, the judge appointed Jeffrey Silverstein of Bangor to represent Coon.
Silverstein described his client as “anguished” over Clifford’s death.
“He’s very distraught over the circumstances that led to his being in court today,” the attorney said at an impromptu press conference outside the courthouse. “He is distressed over her loss.”
Silverstein said that a brother, niece and friend of Coon’s attended Tuesday’s hearing to show their support.
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson is prosecuting the case. He declined interviews with the media. It is the practice of the Maine attorney general’s office not to comment on a case until it has been concluded.
Coon and Clifford both have criminal histories, according to background checks and Bangor Daily News archives.
If convicted of murder, Coon faces 25 years to life in prison.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TRS 800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.
Correction: A previous version incorrectly stated that Sherry Clifford's oldest son is Keith Clifford. Her oldest son, who had dinner at her house on Sunday, is Eric Clifford.