Newtown Man Gets 75 Years For Bludgeoning Murder
Newtown Man Gets 75 Years For Bludgeoning Murder
By Andrew Gorosko
WATERBURY â In the morning darkness of Saturday, November 17, 2007, Nicholas Clark of Newtown broke into the wood-frame house at 49 Knoll Street in Waterburyâs East End where he had formerly lived with his estranged wife, Christa, and their two young sons.
With a backpack in hand, Clark entered the home through a rear window at about 4 am and found Christa, then age 29, sleeping in bed with her new boyfriend Erich Tabert, 26.
The enraged Clark, wielding a metallic club, then wildly beat Tabert to death as the man slept, crushing his head under the repeated blows of the homemade steely bludgeon to which Clark had affixed four metal screws to rip flesh.
Pronounced brain dead that day, Tabert was removed from life support two days later, after his bodily organs were donated to others. Tabert was a Utah man whom Christa Clark had met online and with whom she had developed a romance.
Nicholas Clark also savagely beat Christa with the large-diameter pipe. Believing that he had killed her also, Clark fled the scene. Though severely injured, Christa Clark did not die. She suffered three fractures to her arm, a dislocated elbow, broken facial bones, and a severed nostril, according to a court prosecutor. Seven surgeries were required to repair her wounds.
The Clarkâs two young sons were not in the Waterbury home on the night of the murder. Instead, they were staying with their grandparents in Newtown.
For the assault and murder, Waterbury Superior Court Judge Roland D. Fasano on July 10 sentenced him to spend 75 years in state prison. Clark, who is 33 years old, would be eligible to seek parole after spending about 73 years incarcerated. Clark had been facing up to 100 years in prison.
The judge sentenced Clark to 60 years in prison for the murder of Tabert, which is considered a life sentence in Connecticut.
For the first-degree assault against Christa, the judge sentenced Clark to 15 years of prison time to be served following the 60-year murder sentence.
Additionally, Judge Fasano, gave Clark a 20-year sentence for first-degree burglary, which he will serve concurrently with the murder sentence.Â
At his 12th court appearances since the murder, Clark pleaded guilty in May to charges of murder, first-degree assault with serious physical injury, and first-degree burglary with a deadly weapon.
After Waterbury police arrested Clark at the commuter parking lot on Wasserman Way in Newtown on the day of the murder, Clark had been held in state prison on $2.5 million bail.
At 10:30 am on July 10 in Waterbury Superior Court at 400 Grand Street, judicial marshals led Clark into Courtroom 2-B. Clad in a bright orange prison coverall, the heavily bearded Clark was kept restrained in shackles and handcuffs.
Assistant Stateâs Attorney Amy L. Sedensky said that because Clark had pleaded guilty to the three felony charges, no trial had been held, and thus no criminal evidence had been presented to the court. The state had been ready to start a trial, but the defendant then pleaded guilty to the charges, she said.
Ms Sedensky stressed that Clarkâs murderous actions were âdeliberate, purposeful, and planned.â The crime was âa heinous, brutal, and premeditated attack against two unarmed sleeping people,â she added.
The prosecutor said that Clarkâs actions were ânot a crime of passion.â
Clark fabricated a weapon that would massively injure its victims, she told the judge.
On the night of the assault, Clark had been at a Danbury bar, after which he went to his Newtown home, where he had been living with his parents during ongoing divorce proceedings from Christa, Ms Sedensky said.
Three criminal assault charges, which the state had later filed against Clark for allegedly assaulting two women and a man at the Danbury bar on that night, were dropped by the prosecution in court on July 10.
After leaving his Newtown home, Clark headed to Waterbury. His backpack contained a blowtorch, duct tape, and some wire, the prosecutor said. Clark left a note at his Newtown home describing his intentions, the prosecutor said. Clarkâs father, Michael, found that note and provided it to Newtown police, Ms Sedensky said.
Nicholas Clarkâs anger over his marital situation continued to build in view of his continuing to make mortgage payments on the Waterbury house where Christa Clark and Erich Tabert were then living, Ms Sedensky said.
About 4 am, a neighbor spotted Clark near the Knoll Street house and noticed that he was talking to himself. That neighbor later woke up to find Waterbury police in the area, investigating the grisly crime scene, Ms Sedensky said.
In court, to illustrate the ferocity of the attack, the prosecution used computer monitors to display for the judge and for the defendant some photographs of the severely beaten crime victims. A 911 call alerting police of the crime also was played for the judge and defendant.
Wearing blue plastic gloves, the prosecutor displayed the hefty murder weapon to the judge.
Christa Clark awoke from bed as she was being beaten in the face by her estranged husband, Ms Sedensky said. As he beat her, Nicholas Clark repeatedly called his estranged wife a âwhore,â the prosecutor said.
Christa Clarkâs injuries were so severe that she is physically scarred for life, Ms Sedensky told the judge. Nicholas Clark sought to kill the mother of his children, Ms Sedensky added.
âMr Tabert truly, truly is an innocent victim,â she said.
His massive head wounds including skull fractures and brain injuries resulted in doctors declaring him brain dead the day of the attack, she said. He was kept alive for two days at St Maryâs Hospital until his family could arrive from out-of-state and until his bodily organs could be harvested for human transplant, she added. Tabert died of blunt-force head trauma, according to the medical examiner.
In 2007, preceding the vicious attack, Nicholas Clark went from loving to then hating his wife, Ms Sedensky said, noting the marital discord that led to their divorce proceedings. The divorce action commenced in February 2007. A divorce was granted in February 2008.
Nicholas Clark went to his former Waterbury home to kill both Erich Tabert and Christa Clark and believed that he had killed both of them when he fled the house, the prosecutor said.
Tearful family members of Erich Tabert, including a sister and his mother, described to Judge Fasano the friendly, kind, and outgoing person that the Utah man had been. They attested to his personality and good character. The family pressed to have Clark sentenced to life in prison without the prospect of parole.
Christa Clark did not attend court on July 10.
The killerâs sentence must be proportionate to the viciousness of his attacks against the victims, Ms Sedensky told Judge Fasano.
Noting that Clark was facing up to 100 years in prison for his crimes, the prosecutor urged that Clark be imprisoned for a term âat the higher end of the spectrum.â
Defense attorney John R. Gulash, Jr, observed, âThe Tabert family did lose a particularly fine person,â adding that Christa Clark was severely injured in the attack.
âNone of your remarks are lost on Nicholas Clark,â Mr Gulash said. âNicholas Clark is as sorry, as remorseful, as anyone I have stood alongside at a sentencing,â he said.
âHe is very intelligent,â Mr Gulash added, in asking Judge Fasano to fashion a sentence that would allow Clark to spend the last years of his life outside of prison.
Michael Clark of Newtown spoke in court on behalf of his son.
âI have to offer my heartfelt condolences,â a tearful Michael Clark said. He added that his family has suffered, but not to the degree that the that the Tabert family has suffered.
âBy pleading guilty, he has shown he chooses to take his penalty without any further delay,â Michael Clark said.
Despite his sonâs crimes, Michael Clark professed that he loves his son.
The Clark family will seek to make the balance of Nicholas Clarkâs life as productive as possible, the father added.
Â Nicholas Clark will face his punishment as positively as possible, Mr Gulash said.
âIt was an extremely emotionally chargedâ incident, he said, adding that Nicholas Clarkâs use of alcohol had adversely affected his mood before the murderous attack.
âHe literally has thrown himself at the mercy of the court,â Mr Gulash said of the three guilty pleas. The lawyer again urged the judge to structure a sentence that would allow Clark to spend the last years of his life outside of prison.
Speaking to the court, a tearful Nicholas Clark said, âI am truly sorry for the pain I have causedâ¦The wound will never heal.â
The defendant acknowledged that he is an alcoholic. âI have only recently come to terms with my alcoholism,â he said.
âIâm truly very sorry for my deplorable actions,â he said, adding that alcohol use was a factor in what occurred, triggering the violence.
âIt was one brief moment in my life and it cannot be excused,â he said, adding, though, that he cannot let the incident overshadow his entire existence.
Clark said that he failed his children, adding that would try to move forward through life and honor the memory of Erich Tabert.
âDadâ¦Iâm sorry I failed you,â he said.
Judge Fasano thanked the prosecution and the defense for their presentations, which better described the circumstances of the case than possible solely through legal documents, he said.
âThis is devastating for both sides, particularly the Tabert family,â the judge said.
Judge Fasano noted that Clarkâs guilty pleas were entered at âthe 11th hour,â stressing that the prosecution was ready to proceed with a trial of the case.
âThis case was a âheartbeatâ from being a double homicide,â Judge Fasano said. Any plea bargain in such a case would have been an âinsult,â he added.
Judge Fasano characterized the crime as âa senseless and brutal murder of an innocent young manâ¦He [Tabert] was an innocent as could be.â
The judge acknowledged that there are significant psychological and psychiatric factors in the case in light of Nicholas Clarkâs use of alcohol and drugs.
Analyzing what occurred, Judge Fasano described it as âa very focused, motivated, almost planned rage.â
âMy conclusion is that itâs difficult to impose anything other than the maximum sentence,â he said.
Â Noting that Christa Clark is permanently injured, it is necessary for the defendant to serve additional prison time beyond the murder sentence for his assault against Christa Clark, Judge Fasano said.
The judge decided that after he spends 60 years in prison for the Tabert murder, Clark must spend another 15 years in prison for the assault against Christa Clark.
Nicholas Clark was being held this week by the state Department of Correction at Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield. His estimated prison release date is July 9, 2084.