East Deer man admits to killing wife

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Neighbors in East Deer knew him as a quiet man who doted on his young daughter, but Thomas E. Clark told police he was actually a heroin user who bludgeoned and killed his wife "in a fit of rage" over an alleged affair.

Mr. Clark, 50, denied involvement for days after his wife Jill, also 50, was reported missing on Tuesday, saying only that the couple had argued and she had left the house. On Saturday, one day after trying to commit suicide through a drug overdose, he led Allegheny County homicide detectives to her naked and decomposing body near a pump station in Plum.

He told police he had struck her two to three times with the handle of a floor jack while arguing in their garage Monday night after confronting her over a decade-long workplace affair that he thought had ended. When he looked down at her body afterward "it was the most horrifying thing imaginable," he told police.

Detectives charged Mr. Clark with homicide, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse, and sent him to Allegheny County Jail. He had a preliminary hearing set for Friday.

Records show that Mr. Clark and his wife bought their one-story, hillside home in tiny East Deer -- next to Tarentum and across the Allegheny River from New Kensington -- in 1990. Like most of their neighbors, who include the township's police chief, they kept a tidy-looking house with a well-kept garden where Mr. Clark could often be seen playing with his elementary-school-age daughter. Another daughter is in her early teen years and the couple had two adult sons as well.

Mr. Clark seemed like "a friendly, good person" according to neighbor Gennaro Dilembo, 52, though he did not talk much. Another neighbor who asked not to be identified described him the same way, adding that he had lost his job recently when a nearby used car dealership closed. While seeming like his normal self early in the week, he was acting "weird and creepy" by Independence Day, the neighbor said.

Ms. Clark had "an impeccable work history," according to a criminal complaint, so fellow postal workers in Penn Hills were quick to report her missing to police when she did not show for work Tuesday. Mr. Clark told police early on that he had argued with his wife between 2 and 3 a.m. Tuesday and she had left their house thereafter. He explained away scratches on his forearm and chest as coming from his wife. She had been increasingly aggressive toward him the past few days, he told police, and "a person can only take so much before they eventually snap."

On Friday, their son Edwin of Tarentum reported to police that he viewed his father engaged in "disturbing behavior" through the week, including washing his brown work boots, using a stone grinding wheel to grind the soles off the boots and dousing the house basement with bleach. The son "stated that he fully believes that Tom had killed Jill," the complaint said.

On the same day, police learned that Mr. Clark was attempting suicide and found him in nearby Deer Lakes Park with a cut left wrist, 20 stamp bags of heroin and eight syringes. At first, he declined to talk to investigators but relented early Saturday morning, telling them why and how he killed his wife. He then led detectives to her body, was discovered at 7:10 a.m. near a pump station on Old Leechburg Road.

He claimed that his wife slapped and insulted him during a fight over the longtime affair, whereupon he struck and killed her. He then told police he wrapped her body in plastic and tape, placed the remains in the family van and left them in woods off a gravel access road in Plum.

breaking - region - neigh_east

Tim McNulty: tmcnulty@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581. First Published July 6, 2013 1:30 PM


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