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Jurors are expected to begin deliberating Monday afternoon in the murder trial of a Hampden man accused of slaying his sister-in law.
After six days of testimony at Bangor’s Penobscot Judicial Center, the jury must decide if Philip Clark, 56, intentionally killed Renee Henneberry Clark, 49, on July 11, 2018, and is guilty of murder or if he acted recklessly when he shot her and is guilty of manslaughter.
Clark 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.
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.
If convicted of murder, he faces 25 years to life in prison. He faces a maximum of 30 years in prison if found guilty of manslaughter.
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 Philip Clark, but it was denied because the law covers spouses, domestic partners and dating partners, but not a brother-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.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese, who is prosecuting the case, told jurors Monday in her closing argument that they didn’t need to decide how the events leading up to the shooting — 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 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.
Defense attorney David 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.”
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 has been held without bail at the Penobscot County Jail since his arrest July 13, 2018.