Philip Clark (left), of Hampden was found guilty of intentional or knowing murder in the July 2018 death of Renee Henneberry Clark (right). Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN; Contributed

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Jurors found a Hampden man guilty Monday of murder in the shooting death of his sister-in-law last year.

The jury of eight men and four women deliberated less than two hours before rejecting the defense team’s argument that Philip Clark, 56, was guilty of manslaughter in the death of Renee Henneberry Clark, 49, on July 11, 2018. Instead, they found he had killed her intentionally or knowingly, as the prosecution maintained throughout a trial that lasted more than a week.

Clark, who did not react when the verdict was read, confessed to police that he pulled the trigger after she pushed “every frigging button she could” until he snapped and shot her 10 times.

He did not take the stand in his own defense.

Members of Henneberry Clark’s family wept quietly as the verdict was read, but declined to speak with reporters after the verdict was announced.

In his instructions Monday, Superior Court Justice William Stokes agreed to give jurors the option of finding Clark not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter, which is a lesser charge included in a murder indictment.

Defense attorney David Bate said Clark’s conviction would be appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which is standard in murder cases.

Following the verdict, Bate described his client as “a normal, nice guy.”

“He really did get caught up in a divorce machinery that was not of his making and he really was a victim of that,” he said. “He’s always taken full responsibility for his conduct and he thought he was entitled to the benefit of the doubt on certain things. The jury saw it otherwise. They worked very hard. We’re grateful for their service but certainly disappointed.”

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese, who prosecuted the case, said that she was pleased with the verdict.

“At first blush, this looked like a very straight-forward murder case, but the defense generated a lot of issues for jurors to think about,” she said. “In the end they found him guilty of intentional or knowing murder.”

The events leading up to Henneberry Clark’s death began June 15, 2018, when she took out a protection from abuse order against her husband and he moved out of the apartment they shared in Hampden.

Henneberry Clark had attempted to take out a protection from abuse order against Philp Clark, but it was denied because the law covers spouses, domestic partners and dating partners, but not brothers-in-law. However, a criminal trespass order against Philip Clark was in place when she was killed.

Henneberry Clark’s body was found two days after she died in the bedroom of her apartment at 557 Kennebec Road in Hampden. Clark lived in an adjoining apartment.

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

Marchese told jurors Monday in her closing argument that they didn’t need to decide how the events leading up to the shooting — such as the alleged theft of Clark’s tools or his fight with the Rev. Anthony Cipolle, a Catholic priest, just hours before the shooting — affected Clark’s actions.

“Renee [Henneberry] Clark was doing nothing more than trying to remove herself from an abusive marriage,” Marchese said. “People go through nasty breakups all the time. They lose their rights to their children, they lose their rights to their pets all the time. People don’t kill over that. And if they do, they should be convicted of murder.”

The prosecutor also said that Clark made “victim-blaming comments that were nothing more than a self-justification to excuse himself for shooting her.”

Marchese told the jury that Clark “executed” Henneberry Clark by shooting at her 15 times, hitting her body 10 times.

“He told police that he changed clips, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is intentional or knowing murder,” she said.

Bate told the jury that Clark was caught in the crossfire of a “divorce war.”

“Phil Clark was pushed beyond all rationality,” Bate said. “He was driven by forces that were out of his control. That spontaneous rage rendered his actions to be unintentional and unknowing.”

Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

Philip Clark accused Henneberry Clark of taking the tools he used to work as a carpenter, but she denied taking them, according to testimony. But the tools later were found in a house in Etna that Henneberry Clark had rented in May 2018. Cipolle rented a room from her there.

Cipolle, who described Henneberry Clark as his “best friend,” had a fight with Philip Clark on July 11, 2018, a few hours before she died. The defendant suffered broken ribs, a cut on his head, other contusions and bruises, according to testimony.

Bate told jurors Monday that the fight, in which Clark suffered an undiagnosed concussion, was “the icing on the cake.”

“If there’s no thrashing of Phil Clark, there’s no shooting of Renee [Henneberry] Clark,” he said.

Clark, who has been held without bail at the Penobscot County Jail since his arrest July 13, 2018, will continue to be held there, the judge ordered.

A sentencing date has not been set but the judge said after jurors were dismissed that he would try to schedule it in January.

Clark faces 25 years to life in prison. If he’d been convicted of manslaughter, Clark would have faced a maximum of 30 years in prison.