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A defense attorney in the trial of a Hampden man accused of slaying his sister-in-law last year told jurors Friday that her client shot and killed his sister-in-law after weeks of conflict between the two.
Logan Perkins of Belfast said that Philip Clark exploded like “a bucket overflows” when it is filled with too much water, killing Renee Henneberry Clark.
“He killed her in a blind rage” after he was “bruised, broken and bloody” in a fight with a former Bangor priest, the Rev. Anthony Chipolle, who was a friend of Henneberry Clark, Perkins said in her opening statement.
Clark, 56, of Hampden has pleaded not guilty to intentional or knowing murder in the death of Henneberry Clark, 49, in July 2018. When confronted by police, Clark confessed to the slaying, attorneys for the defense and the prosecution said on the first day of his trial.
Perkins said that the events in the months before Henneberry Clark was killed, including the disappearance of the tools Clark needed for his work as a carpenter, pushed him to his breaking point. The tools were later found in an Etna house Henneberry Clark was renting, Perkins said.
She said that the priest punched Clark in the face and knocked him down on the ground, then kicked him so hard that Clark had a broken rib and a large bruise on his back over his kidney. Police were called to the scene but charged no one, according to Perkins.
The defense attorney appeared to be setting the stage to seek a manslaughter verdict rather than one for murder, but she did not tell the jury that directly.
Assistant Attorney General Lisa Bogue said in her opening statement that the evidence would show Clark is guilty of murder. She told jurors that he had never liked his sister-in-law and was upset about the fight with Cipolle when he shot her.
“On July 11, Philip Clark grabbed a loaded gun from his apartment and took an extra magazine. He walked from his apartment at the back building around to the front of the building to the door of Renee’s apartment,” Bogue said.
“He passed a sign telling him to stay out of her apartment,” Bogue continued. “When he went in there, he confronted her. She tried to get away from him but he shot at her at least seven times until he emptied the gun. Then he reloaded and fired seven more shots until she fell on the bed and stopped moving.”
Dr. Kristen Sweeney, a part-time medical examiner, testified that Henneberry Clark was shot 10 times and died of multiple gunshot wounds.
Perkins told the jury that when the final confrontation between Clark and his sister-in-law took place, he asked her: “You think this is funny?”
“She said, ‘I think this is hilarious,’” she said.
That is when Clark, who repeatedly confessed to police, pulled the trigger, Perkins told the jury.
Neither the defense nor the prosecution explained what Cipolle was doing at the apartment with Henneberry Clark on July 11, 2018.
Cipolle is expected to testify Thursday or Friday for the defense.
Details about the fight between Clark and the priest had not been made public before Friday.
Cipolle took a leave of absence in December for personal reasons, shortly after a Superior Court judge ruled against him and ordered him to turn over Henneberry Clark’s diary that he had instructed her to keep. The priest, who was ordained Nov. 18, 2017, remains on leave, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland confirmed earlier this week.
In addition to the medical examiner, Maine State Police detectives and technicians from the Maine State Crime Laboratory also took the stand Friday. Hampden police officers are scheduled to testify Monday about their interactions with Henneberry Clark, her estranged husband, Frank “Chuck” Clark, 57, of Hampden and the defendant.
The jury of eight men and seven women, including three alternates who will be dismissed before deliberations begin, was selected Thursday. Superior Court Justice William Stokes, who for decades prosecuted murder cases before becoming a judge, is presiding at the trial.
Hampden police began trying to locate her 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 against a brother-in-law. She did secure a criminal trespass order against him, which he allegedly violated June 15, 2018.
The trial is expected to end late next week.
Clark has been held without bail at the Penobscot County Jail since his arrest.
If convicted, he faces 25 years to life in prison.