Death Row Diaries: This man keeps an unusual souvenir while the jury hears from a hooded witness

PHOENIX - Arizona’s most notorious death row inmates past and present have incredible stories including this one with its bizarre souvenir, strange witness and unusual marriage.

 

JAMES DEAN CLARK

Date of Birth: October 18. 1957
Executed: April 14, 1993

The Crime:

In 1977, James Dean Clark worked as a ranch hand at the Cochise Guest Lodge and Ranch in Elfrida, Arizona. Elfrida is a small community in southeastern Arizona about 27 miles Northwest of Douglas. 

On December 3, 1977 Clark and two other workers at the ranch went to a bar in Elfrida and then to a disco in Douglas. They returned to the ranch around 1 a.m. Later that evening Clark stabbed one wrangler in his bed seven times as he slept and shot the other man three times.

Clark then grabbed a .357 revolver from one of the victim's and went into the main house killing the ranch owners, Charles and Mildred Thumm.

Clark stole credit cards, jewelry, weapons and a saddle and drove to El Paso, Texas, where he bragged about the murder to a friend.

Clark was arrested in El Paso, telling authorities there that he had permission to use the car to get his girlfriend and bring her back to Arizona.

The bullet in his pocket was one that passed through a victim's head

Police also found a spent bullet in his jacket pocket in his hotel room. The bullet in his pocket was one that had passed through the head of one of his victims.  

 

The trial and the hooded informant:

At the preliminary hearing on December 15, 1977 a confidential informant from the Drug Enforcement Administration testified, over the objections of Clark’s attorneys. The informant wore a ski mask to hide his identity but removed it briefly so Clark could see him.

Clark would always contend that the hooded informant was the real killer

At trial the informant told the jury that he met Clark at a bar in El Paso and the next day traded him drugs for weapons, including the .357 revolver. The informant said Clark told him that he had killed people in “Elvira” Arizona.

Clark would always contend that the hooded informant was the real killer.

On June 23, 1978 Clark was convicted of first degree murder of the four people. He was sentenced one month later.

Before his sentencing Clark’s attorneys argued for leniency citing several factors such as:

  • Clark’s age, he was 20 at the time of the murders
  • His poor home life
  • Emotional problems, stemming from his antisocial personality
  • His cooperation with police during the investigation

On July 28, 1978 the judge still sentenced Clark to death for each of the four murders.

In 1985, during Clark’s time on death row he met a psychiatric nurse who was working at the prison. They married at the prison three years later.

"I call him my prince and, in many ways, he is"

She testified at his clemency hearing, saying he was an honest man. She also said ''I call him my prince and in many ways he is,'' she also said. ''He's gentle, strong, sensitive, loving ... I can't picture life without him.''

After his state and federal appeals ran out, Clark was scheduled for execution.    

 

The execution: April 14, 1993

Last meal: Porter House Steak (medium rare) with A-1 Steak Sauce

2 lbs. of Large Shrimp and sauce

Baked Potato with sour cream

Cole slaw

2 Dinner rolls with butter

Banana Cream Pie

Rice Pudding with Raisins

Strawberry milkshake

 

Last words:  He mouthed ''I love you,'' to his wife, who watched through the witness room window.

 

Information gathered from AZ. Dept. of Corrections, AZ. Attorney General’s Office, AP and

Clark v. Lewis, 1 F.3d 814 (9th Cir. 1993)

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