First Posted: 1/15/2009
LUMBERTON - A jury found a Maxton man guilty Wednesday in what prosecutors called an execution-style slaying of three people, including his mother and a 5-year-old child.
The sentencing phase of Jeffery Wade Clark's capital murder trial begins this morning.
Clark, 33, was convicted of murdering his mother, Brenda Cox, her boyfriend, Henry Burney, and Cox's 5-year-old granddaughter Kaitlin Jacobs.
Assistant District Attorney Stan Todd said Clark committed the murders during a robbery the day after Christmas in 2001. Clark had been jail since his arrest on Dec. 28, 2001.
Clark stole a handgun from a bedroom in his mother's Maxton home and used it to shoot all three victims in the head, Todd said. He then stole his mother's car and fled.
Todd compared the killings to “stuff you see on TV that hit men do.”
Clark faced three counts of first-degree murder, but the jury found him guilty of a single count of first-degree murder in the child's death and two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Cox and Burney. The jury found him not guilty of robbery with a dangerous weapon.
Cox, 51, and Burney, 43, were killed in a mobile home they shared on O'Quinn Road off N.C. 130 near Maxton.
“It's like Henry and Brenda's life were valued less … I'm glad that they found first-degree on Kaitlin,” said Leslie Scott, Cox's niece. “I don't know if they did that because she was a child or because she was the last one killed.”
Scott, who attended the trial with other family members, said, “I don't think I will be able to accept anything less than the death penalty emotional. She was just a child and she didn't even get a chance to be happy. Nobody deserves to die like that, but for me it's even harder when she was at such a young age.”
Clark's lawyers, Carlton Mansfield and Mike Willis, argued that their client is borderline mentally retarded and has trouble controlling his emotions. They said Clark suffered from depression and was addicted to cocaine and used marijuana.
“This case doesn't make sense,” Mansfield said. “The only reasonable explanation for why a man in his early 30s would kill his mother and a 5-year-old is that there was something wrong with him.”
Willis said that Clark was abused as a child.
“He was locked in a closet by his mother's boyfriend while his sister was being raped,” he said. “He had a serious childhood development problem. We're not making any excuses.”
The state argued that it wasn't Clark's diminished capacity, but anger that led him to kill. Todd argued that Clark thought about the killings because all three victims were shot at close range.
“He blamed his mother because she treated Kaitlin better than him,” Todd said.