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Less than six months before her death, Renee Henneberry Clark tried to take out a protection from abuse order against the man who is accused of killing her. It was denied because Philip Clark was her brother-in-law and not a household member, even though he lived in an adjacent apartment in Hampden.
A bill proposed by the state senator who represents the town where Henneberry Clark was shot to death aims to change the law so courts can issue protection from abuse orders against abusers who are not blood relatives, household members or former dating partners. If passed, it would allow district court judges to suggest options, such as a protection from harassment order, when denying a protection from abuse order.
Philip Clark, 55, of Bangor is charged with intentional or knowing murder in the July 2018 shooting death of his sister-in-law, 49-year-old Henneberry Clark, at the apartment she shared with her estranged husband, Frank Clark, 57, Philip Clark’s brother. The accused killer and victim lived in separate apartments at 557 Kennebec Road.
Henneberry Clark had obtained a criminal trespass order against her brother-in-law, which he is accused of violating. It legally prevented him from being at her apartment but did not require him to surrender his guns as a protection from abuse order would have.
Sen. Stacey Guerin, R-Glenburn, sponsored the bill at the request of Henneberry Clark’s daughter, Bethany Henneberry of Glenburn, and Henneberry Clark’s attorney, Ezra Willey of Bangor. A hearing before the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee has not yet been scheduled.
At the time of her death, Willey represented Henneberry Clark in seeking a protection from abuse order against her husband and drafting a complaint for divorce.
“I wanted to put this legislation in for two reasons,” Willey said. “First, to make sure that what happened to Renee never happens again to anyone and to honor Renee’s memory. But, on a larger scope, and second, to close what I have seen as an area of the statute that unnecessarily and arbitrarily limits who can qualify for a [protection from abuse order], as it currently stands.”
Francine Garland Stark, executive director of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, said the organization supports “the concept and intention of the bill.”
“We question whether it is appropriate for the court to be in the position of essentially helping litigants decide what sort of order they ought to seek,” she said. “Court advocates from the local domestic violence resource centers and others are more appropriate resources for folks needing support and information in the process of seeking protection orders.”
Guerin did not return a request for comment on the bill.
The judiciary has not yet taken a stand on the bill but is reviewing its language, according to Elaine Clark, the court system’s liaison to the Legislature.
In the meantime, Philip Clark’s case is headed to trial later this year.
The defendant, who is being held without bail at the Penobscot County Jail, has pleaded not guilty to the charge. His trial is set tentatively for November at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor.
Superior Court Justice William Anderson still is considering which, if any, portions of Henneberry Clark’s so-called spiritual diary will be given to prosecutors and defense attorneys or whether it is exempt under court rules that cover religious privilege.
Henneberry Clark allegedly kept the journal at the direction of her Catholic priest, the Rev. Anthony Cipolle.
Cipolle took a leave of absence from serving Bangor-area churches a few days after Anderson denied a motion by the priest’s attorney to keep the diary’s contents private.
If convicted of murder, Philip Clark faces 25 years to life in prison.