A former Bangor priest who was the spiritual adviser to a Hampden woman allegedly slain by her brother-in-law is expected to testify at the brother-in-law’s trial. But the contents of the victim’s diary that the priest urged her to keep most likely won’t be introduced as evidence.
Philip Clark, 56, of Hampden has pleaded not guilty to intentional or knowing murder in the shooting death of Renee Henneberry Clark, 49, in July 2018. When confronted by police, Clark allegedly confessed to the slaying.
Jury selection for Clark’s trial began Tuesday afternoon at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor. Testimony is scheduled to begin later this week after 12 jurors and several alternates have been chosen from a pool of about 250 Penobscot County residents.
The star witness is expected to be the Rev. Anthony Cipolle, 56, of Massachusetts. He is the Catholic priest who urged Henneberry Clark to keep a spiritual journal when he was assigned to St. Paul the Apostle Parish, which includes churches in the Bangor area, according to court documents. Cipolle came into possession of the diary after Hennebery Clark was killed.
The priest sought to have its contents suppressed under the religious privilege exemption — a legal concept that keeps courts from compelling confessions and conversations between members of the clergy and their congregants from being made public.
Superior Court Justice William Anderson read Henneberry Clark’s journal and allowed attorneys from both sides to read it. As of Tuesday, neither the prosecution nor the defense team had asked to have portions of it admitted into evidence during the trial.
While he is not expected to testify about the diary, Cipolle will be asked about a physical altercation the priest allegedly had with Clark on July 11, 2018, two days before Henneberry Clark’s body was found in her Hampden apartment at 557 Kennebec Road. Her apartment was adjacent to the one where her brother-in-law lived.
Henneberry Clark witnessed the alleged fight but details about the incident have not been made public. Hampden Public Safety Director Joseph Rogers last year confirmed that police were called to 557 Kennebec Road on July 11, 2018, but declined to give details about that call. Cipolle also has declined to comment on the alleged incident, citing the fact that he was to be called as a witness at the Clark’s trial.
Cipolle took a leave of absence in December for personal reasons, shortly after a Superior Court judge ruled against him. The priest, who was ordained Nov. 18, 2017, remains on leave, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland confirmed Tuesday.
Henneberry Clark was estranged from her husband, Frank “Chuck” Clark III, but had not yet filed for divorce. Hampden police began trying to locate Henneberry Clark on July 13, 2018, after her mother, Sharon Miley of Florida, reported that she was unable to contact her daughter, according to the police affidavit filed in support of Clark’s arrest. Miley told police that she was “very concerned” because of the couple’s prior domestic violence history.
That night, detectives went to 557 Kennebec Road in Hampden, a former store that had been converted into apartments, in an attempt to locate Henneberry Clark, the affidavit said. A few minutes after they knocked on a window to Philip Clark’s apartment, he came out and confessed to police.
Henneberry Clark had obtained a protection-from-abuse order against her husband. She had sought one against Philip Clark, but Maine law does not allow a protection-from-abuse order that applies to a brother-in-law. The law covers intimate partners, people living in the same home, or who are dating or have been dating. She did get a criminal trespass order against him, which he allegedly violated June 15, 2018.
Clark has been held without bail at the Penobscot County Jail since his arrest.
If convicted, he 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.