Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Serial Killer Spotlight: Hadden Clark

Hadden Clark was born in April 1951 in Troy, Connecticut. He is a cross-dressing serial killer, necrophile and cannibal. He was convicted of the murders of Michelle Dorr, 6, and Laura Houghteling, 23, though he has confessed to many more, and claims to have killed his first victim, another boy, at the age of 14, and covered it up with the help of his father. Called “Retard” by his father, and Kristen by his mother when she was drunk. His father beat him for cross dressing. Until his conviction for murder he spent 45 days in jail, all sentences for his other convictions were suspended. He claims to have used one victim’s fingers as bait for surf fishing. He is the second born of four children.

Clark was born to a well-off, distinguished, highly educated, yet highly dysfunctional family. His mother could trace her ancestry back to the Revolutionary War and then all the way to the Mayflower. His father, Hadden Sr., was the inventor of clear-clinging plastic wrap and fire-retardant carpeting. None of that helped save the children from the parents’ highly dysfunctional drinking habits, that often became violent in front of Hadden, his brothers, Bradfield and Geoff, and later his baby sister Alison. The youngest, Geoff, got a good education, a good job, married and had three kids, but the marriage ended amidst accusations of domestic violence and abuse, of which he was convicted and given a suspended sentence. Bradfield also got a good education, and made his way into the growing business of computers, but had problems with drug and alcohol abuse that culminated in his murdering his date and co-worker Patricia Mak, 29, in 1984. Possibly a hint as to what was going on just below the surface with his younger brother Hadden, Bradfield bludgeoned Mak with a cinder block, strangled her to death, cut her up into 11 pieces, cooked her breasts on his barbecue and ate them. Later he felt bad about it and turned himself in. Bradfield was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for the murder.

Hadden mostly enjoyed hurting people, even for the slightest offense. From a young age he was dressed in frilly girls’ clothing by his mother, a habit that he kept throughout his life. She had wanted a girl, and undaunted by Hadden’s sex, dressed him as one and called him Kristen when she was drunk. He decapitated and displayed pets on their owner’s doorsteps when he felt slighted. Initially a promising chef, but antisocial behavior, like peeing in the food and chugging beef blood, got him shut out of the restaurant business. Clark had already killed multiple times when living at his grandfather’s in Providence, Rhode Island, when he decided to give the U.S. Navy a shot. His cross dressing and frilly ladies’ underwear got him beaten up often enough that the Navy gave him a medical discharge for paranoid schizophrenia. Clark wound up staying in Maryland with his brother Geoff, briefly, before he was bounced out for masturbating on front of the children. Particularly galling was that his niece, 6, had called him a retard.

Hadden Clark's knives

Hadden Clark's knives

Before he moved out, he vented his rage by killing her best friend and next-door neighbor Michelle Dorr. Clark lured Michelle to his niece’s empty room, slashed her to death with one of his culinary knives, tried to have sex with the body, cleaned up the mess and dumped the remains, but not before tasting her flesh. Police quickly settled on Michelle’s father as a suspect, though they were never able to charge him, and the murder went unsolved for years.

After that Clark just got weirder, more vindictive and more unstable. When Clark’s mother caught him stealing from her he beat her and tried to hit her with his truck. When a landlord evicted him, Clark vandalized the family’s home, robbed them and killed their cats, putting one at the door and one on the stove. He later became attached to an older woman, Penny Houghteling, who hired him to do yard work. He killed her daughter, Laura, out of jealousy. Creepily enough he was dressed in Penny’s clothing and wearing a wig at the time. Clark was implicated in the murder pretty quickly, arrested and charged. He led investigators to a cache of more than 200 pieces of jewelry, hidden on his grandfather’s property, that he claimed to have taken as tokens from his other victims. While in prison her confessed to another prisoner, who he thought was Jesus, about killing Michelle Dorr. Ultimately he would show police to the body.

Hadden Clark is in a Maryland prison serving two thirty-year sentences for murder, plus ten years for robbing his old landlord.

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