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Death Urged for Botched-Heist Mastermind

Courts: Jury decides on execution for William Clinton Clark, although he didn't pull trigger in 1991 Fountain Valley murder.

October 28, 1997|JEFF KASS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SANTA ANA — A jury recommended the death penalty Monday for William Clinton Clark, the first person in Orange County to face possible execution for murder without having been the actual killer.

Clark, 43, of Los Angeles was found guilty of masterminding the botched 1991 robbery of a Fountain Valley computer store that ended in murder, and later arranging the murder of a witness who had testified against him. But his first jury deadlocked on whether to recommend the death penalty.

Orange County Superior Court Judge John J. Ryan will sentence Clark on Dec. 5, and attorneys said he is expected to follow the second jury's recommendation.

Clark, dressed in navy blue slacks and a dark blue sweater, sat calmly as the jury's decision was read, but he suddenly turned to look at the mother and sister of one of his victims when they gasped at the verdict.

Outside court, 61-year-old Angie Williams, the mother of murder victim Ardell Williams, said, "Justice has won."

Ardell Williams' older sister, Liz Williams, said the verdict sent the message that "No one gets a free murder."

Clark had proclaimed his innocence during the trial, and one of his attorneys, Kenneth Reed, continued Monday to question the reliability of the witnesses who testified against him.

"I'm sad," Reed said outside court. "I can't think of any other reaction to feel. I'm sort of numb."

Clark was convicted in the fatal shooting of Garden Grove secretary Kathy Lee as she arrived to pick up her son at CompUSA in Fountain Valley in 1991. Two others, including Clark's younger brother, have been convicted in connection with that murder.

He also was convicted of the 1994 murder of Williams, who had testified before an Orange County grand jury about Clark's involvement in the Fountain Valley case.

Juror Marylois Kuhn of San Juan Capistrano said the jury first voted 11-1 in favor of a death sentence. She said the holdout juror was finally persuaded by a letter Clark had written to his girlfriend, Antoinette Yancey, who has been convicted for her involvement in Williams' murder. Clark, who wrote to Yancey while both were behind bars, suggested ways she could clear herself of the murder charges, according to Kuhn.

"You create your own sentence," Kuhn said of Clark's actions. She added: "We simply carried it out."

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