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Slain Colorado prisons chief memorialized as man of vision

March 25, 2013|By Michael Muskal

Tom Clements was memorialized as a man of vision as top state officials, family members and friends said farewell on Monday to the Colorado prisons chief slain last week.

“He was a great man, a great leader, a voice of reason and wisdom,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who hired Clements. “Without question, he was one of the finest people I have ever worked with.

“His energy was tireless. He was always, always moving forward,” the governor told mourners inside a packed New Life Church in Colorado Springs. “He was the person you would want in a fox hole.”

“We are here to celebrate the life of a man who has left his imprint on the nation,” said Matt Heard, senior pastor of the Woodmen Valley Chapel, who presided at the memorial service. Heard cited Clements’ successes as prison chief, husband and father and praised him as one of the country’s “gifted leaders.” Citing Clements’ love of music, Heard asked the assembled to sing along on one of Clements’ favorite songs, “America the Beautiful.”

A private funeral was held for Clements on Sunday. He is survived by his wife, Lisa Clements, a psychologist who oversees Colorado's state mental health institutes, and two daughters.

Clements was “the love of my life,” said his wife, flanked by their daughters. “He lived his life believing in redemption,” and the ability of human beings to change, part of the philosophy that guided his work in corrections.

Recruited from Missouri, Clements served as head of the Colorado prison system for about two years. He was killed last week while answering the door at his Monument, Colo., home.

Evan Spencer Ebel, killed in a gunfight with Texas authorities on Thursday, is suspected of shooting Clements and is also a suspect in another murder, the slaying of Nathan Leo, a pizza delivery man on March 17 in Denver.

Authorities say they suspect that Ebel is linked to the murder because of his car, which is similar to the one a witness placed near the Clements home the night of the shooting. Officials have also said that the bullets Ebel fired in Texas were the same caliber as the ammunition used at the Clements home.

But officials have cautioned that a positive link will depend on ballistics tests expected to be completed later this week.

Meanwhile, the motive for the Clements shooting remains unclear.

Officials have said that Ebel was a member of the 211s, a white supremacist prison gang in Colorado, though it is not known if that connection played a part in the killing.

In addition, Hickenlooper has said that he is a longtime friend of the suspect's father, attorney Jack Ebel, who testified two years ago before state lawmakers that solitary confinement was destroying his son's psyche. There was no indication that Hickenlooper's relationship with Jack Ebel played a role in the shooting and the governor has denied playing a part in the granting of parole to the younger Ebel.

Jack Ebel issued a statement offering condolences to all those who have suffered from his son's actions.

“I ask for privacy for me and my family during this time as we grieve for the loss of life that has occurred and for all those affected,” he said.

ALSO:

Suspect in killing of prisons chief spent years in solitary

Evan Ebel now called suspect in death of Colorado prison director

Colorado authorities seeks clues, motive in slaying of prisons chief

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