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The Hampden man convicted in November of murdering his sister-in-law in the summer of 2018 was sentenced Tuesday to 43 years in prison.
Philip Clark, 56, confessed to police that he pulled the trigger after Renee Henneberry Clark, 49, pushed “every frigging button she could” until he snapped and shot her 10 times on July 11, 2018, in the bedroom of her Hampden apartment.
Her body was found in the apartment two days later. Clark lived in an adjoining apartment.
Clark faced between 25 years and life in prison for murder.
“Losing my mom sucks,” the victim’s daughter, Bethany Henneberry of Glenburn, said at Tuesday’s sentencing.
She told Superior Court Justice William Stokes that she has installed cameras in her home since her mother’s death out of fear and so there would be evidence available for investigators if something ever happened to her.
“Yes, I want Phil to go to jail forever, but what I really want is for him to get therapy so he won’t hurt other people the way he hurt my mom,” Bethany Henneberry said.
She and other members of Henneberry Clark’s family urged Stokes to sentence Clark to life in prison, but the judge said the law did not allow him to do that.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court in 1990 laid out seven conditions under which a judge may send a convicted murderer to prison for life. They are premeditation; murder accompanied by torture, sexual abuse or other extreme cruelty; murder committed in a penal institution by an inmate; multiple victims; murder of a hostage; a previous murder conviction; or the murder of an on-duty law enforcement officer. One or more of them must apply for a convicted murderer to be sentenced to life, the state’s highest court said in its ruling in the case of Maine v. John Shortsleeves.
In imposing the sentence, Stokes said that watching the trial was like watching “a runaway train.”
“As the evidence played out in the trial, all I wanted to do was push the stop button and remind Philip, remind Mr. Anthony Cipolle and remind Renee, too, that this really was a toxic situation that was headed for catastrophe,” he said.
Stokes accepted the prosecution’s contention that Henneberry Clark’s shooting death was “an execution.”
“Renee was essentially slaughtered with bullets,” the judge said. “I don’t know what was going through her mind, but I’m sure she thought, he’s going to kill me.”
Defense attorney David Bate of Bangor recommended a sentence of 25 years so that Clark has “some hope of living as a free man again.” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Marchese, who prosecuted the case, recommended a 50-year sentence that, due to Clark’s age, would be a de facto life sentence.
The defendant’s brother and the victim’s estranged husband, Frank “Chuck” Clark, described Philip Clark as “an artist” and said his brother avoided conflict, and liked celebrating Christmas and birthdays. The brothers often helped people in need by doing home repairs for free.
“We had no idea there was this maelstrom going on behind us” when the police arrived June 15, 2018, to serve Chuck Clark with a protection from abuse order, he said. He also told the judge that he did not know his wife had rented a house in Etna or about her relationship with a local priest until after she was killed.
“What happened is horrible. You don’t have to exaggerate and extrapolate and put him away forever,” Chuck Clark, who did not testify at his brother’s trial, told Stokes.
Shortly before being sentenced, Philip Clark apologized to Renee Henneberry Clark’s family.
“I do feel terrible,” the defendant said. “I feel terrible about the whole thing I did. I don’t condone it. I’m truly sorry that I took her away from you, and I’m truly sorry to Renee that I cut her life short. I’m truly sorry. I can’t say it enough.”
He also told the judge that he deserved to be punished for what he had done.
Family and friends of the victim and the defendant left the courthouse without speaking with reporters.
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. By the time of her death, Henneberry Clark had retracted her statements seeking the order, but it was still in effect, Bate said in his sentencing memorandum.
Henneberry Clark had attempted to take out a protection from abuse order against Philp Clark, but it was denied because the law allows such orders for 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.
Philip Clark had accused Henneberry Clark of taking the tools he used to work as a carpenter. 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.
The Rev. Anthony Cipolle, a Catholic priest then based in Bangor, 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 Henneberry Clark died. The defendant suffered broken ribs, a cut on his head, other contusions and bruises.
“It is incontrovertible that but for their stealing from Mr. Clark, their lying to the police, their refusal to cooperate with police, their plan to ‘evict Phil,’ and Mr. Cipolle’s merciless and sadistic beating of Mr. Clark — but for those events and Mr. Clark’s head injury and his understandable sense of outrage and injustice, Renee Clark would be alive today,” Bate wrote in his sentencing memo. “Those factors do not excuse Mr. Clark’s shooting of Ms. Clark but, in determining a just disposition, the conduct of Ms. Clark and Mr. Cipolle cannot be ignored.”
Cipolle, who is on leave from St. Paul the Apostle Parish, did not attend the sentencing, but Stokes said Tuesday that the priest played a role in the tragedy that unfolded.
“The role of Anthony Cipolle in this tragedy, I don’t think can be overstated,” the judge said. “He certainly did not help the situation at all, at least from my point of view. Cipolle clearly inserted himself into this whole situation.”
Stokes also said that Cipolle “had the opportunity to diffuse this situation, and given his position, he had an obligation, a moral obligation, to diffuse the situation and he didn’t. He inflamed it.”
Prosecutor Marchese said in her sentencing memorandum that Clark’s sentence “should reflect the violent and tortuous manner in which Renee Clark was killed.”
“Renee was shot multiple times because the defendant disliked her and blamed her for all that was wrong in his life,” the prosecutor wrote. “The defendant never accepted that a court allowed Renee to live in the residence and that Frank had to live elsewhere. He became obsessed in his belief that his tools were stolen and instigated a fight with Anthony Cipolle …”
Clark had been held without bail at the Penobscot County Jail since his arrest July 13, 2018.
In addition to prison time, Stokes ordered Clark to pay $8,775 to the state’s Victims’ Compensation Fund. Money from the fund went to pay for Henneberry’s Clark’s funeral.