Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Love and Death: The Sunset Strip Killers

Clark on Trial

Doug Clark, headshot
Doug Clark, headshot
 

Clark wrote a press statement based on Carol's arrest report, but switching names and incidents around to make her and Jack Murray look like the guilty parties.  He insisted that all of the evidence pointed to her.

Yet at his preliminary hearing on November 14, 1980, Mindy Cohen testified that Clark had told her over the phone in July that he had killed two of the victims—the step-sisters—and had then had sex with their corpses.   It was not an admission, she said, so much as a threat.  She testified that he had told her he wanted to do the same thing to her.  He also told her that he had shot the girls in both the head and the heart.  He did not identify himself, she said, but she later recognized his voice from a tape that police played for her. 

The taped voice was indeed Douglas Clark's and he had said during his three-plus hours of confession that Carol Bundy was his roommate and that she had killed her boyfriend, Jack Murray, because he knew too much about the other murders.   He admitted that he had helped her to dispose of Murray's decapitated head.  Mindy's testimony was supported with phone records that indicated that someone had called her twice from Clark's apartment, and police had found her phone number in his wallet.  The first time he had posed as a detective, the second time as the killer. 

Clark admitted that he made the calls, but insisted that he had identified himself with his real name.  He believed that this indicated that he was innocent.

Clark was held for pre-trail motions, set for December.  Because of special circumstances in the murders, he faced the death penalty.  He began at once to accuse the police of planting evidence and faking the tape of his voice, and he proceeded to show fault with a succession of lawyers that the court imposed.  He accused everyone involved of being dishonest, and he attempted to find ways of discrediting Carol.  He even suggested that the blood of a victim found on one of his paintings from the rented garage had been refrigerated for the purpose of framing him.

One of his plans for undermining was rather ludicrous.   He had learned that Veronica Compton was in the same prison as Carol.  Veronica had tried to win Hillside Strangler Kenneth Bianchi's love by following his plan for her to strangle a woman in Washington State and plant his semen on her.  That way, he could prove that he had not been the murderer of two women there earlier that year.  But Compton had failed in her mission and been arrested and imprisoned for the attempted murder.  Bianchi had turned his back on her, but Clark saw an opportunity.   He wooed her himself and hoped to use her via his flowery letters (and a valentine decorated with a headless female corpse) to get at Carol.  He also assured her that he would be out of prison by August the following year.  When a Washington jury convicted her, he sent her a rose.  He hoped he could win her into helping him to frame Carol.

*****

The trial began in October 1982 before a jury of eight women and four men.   Farr gives a detailed account in her book, and reporters for the Los Angeles Times summarized the highlights in daily reports for their paper and the Associated Press.  The event drew large crowds of journalists, television reporters, and onlookers, including Peter Falk, the actor who played TV detective Columbo.  It took four months to complete all the testimony, which Deputy District Attorney Robert Jorgensen described as "an intimate tour of a sewer."  Doug Clark was charged in the murders of six women, ages 15 to 24.  All had been shot in the head with the same gun.  (For another potential victim, the bullet was too disintegrated to make a definite match.) 

Jorgensen called Clark a "cowardly butcher of little girls" and a necrophiliac, but the defense portrayed him as an articulate, intelligent man against whom the evidence was only circumstantial.  Clark himself undermined this by acting arrogant, calling the court officers names, and disrupting the proceedings with temper tantrums.

Expert witnesses testified that three of the victims had been sexually assaulted, but could not tell whether this had happened pre- or post-mortem. The prosecution had letters from Clark in which he described his interest in necrophilia to back up their assertions about that aspect of his behavior.  While they hoped with this association to show his depraved nature, they also had good physical evidence of the murders themselves.

During part of the trial, Clark served as his own attorney, with court-appointed lawyers Maxwell Keith and Penelope Watson as his legal consultants.  (He despised Keith but liked Watson.)  During his stay in prison over the past two years, Clark had studied law books and wanted to handle things himself.  The judge was not so sure, but allowed it for a period of time. 

Attorney Keith pointed out that Clark had voluntarily given blood samples and cooperated with authorities with interviews and information.  "It's not something a responsible person would do if his life was in danger," he said.  But most of his efforts were thwarted by Clark's assertions and behaviors.  Like many narcissists, he failed to see how he was coming across.

Charlene Andermann was first on the stand in terms of the line-up of victims, because according to Carol's report, she had been the first one attacked.   However, her testimony was not very strong, due to mistaken identifications and conflicts in her story.  She also had been hypnotized to refresh her memory of the incident, and this became a point of contention, since such evidence had been ruled inadmissible in California.

Then the victim stories were recounted, with the aid of witnesses and relatives.   The evidence to implicate Clark was presented.

Clark tripped himself up after a waitress, Donielle Patton, broke down in tears as she described how her fear of him had forced her to move.  In what could be construed as a veiled threat, he told her he knew her new home address.  He obviously could not resist showing off his sense of power over her, but it did not help his case.

Calling Judge Ricardo Torres a "gutless worm," among many other vulgar names, got Clark's attorney privileges suspended.  Keith and Watson were told to take over. 

The chief witness against Clark, but ironically called by the defense at his behest, was Carol Bundy, who had been promised "use immunity" in those murders (but not her own)—i.e., what she said could not be used at her trial.  She had dressed like a prim and proper housewife and she spoke articulately about being under Clark's spell.  She talked about how Doug had brought home the head of one victim and said that he had bragged about committing murders since he was 17—to the tune of about 47. 

She admitted to having played with the head and applied cosmetics to make it more appealing as a sex toy.   Although she claimed to be a compulsive truth-teller, she undermined herself with a letter she had written explicitly stating that she could not be trusted to tell the truth.  Other letters also showed her to be aware of just how to leave an impression on the jury.  She, in fact, began to sound like the mastermind herself rather than someone under the master's spell.

In January, Veronica Compton was brought in as a witness, even as the trial of the Hillside Stranglers, Bianchi and Buono, was happening across the hall.   Clark had hoped to get her to say that Carol had confessed to everything.  That was the point of his concerted wooing efforts, according to Farr, but she pleaded the Fifth and would not talk.  That disappointed the media.

In the end, Clark had no real case and he had failed to destroy the prosecution as he had promised.  As inept as he claimed they were, they managed to lay out a compelling argument that he was a vile sexual predator and serial killer.

On January 28, according to the newspapers, after the jury deliberated for five days, Clark was found guilty of six counts of murder and one count of attempted murder (in his attack on Andermann).   Farr writes that when the verdict was announced, Clark looked at his mother and mouthed, "Hi Mom."

He kept insisting he was innocent, but nevertheless when he took the stand to once again display his arrogant attitude, he urged the court to sentence him to die in the gas chamber.   They were willing to oblige.

On March 16, 1988, Douglas Clark received six death sentences and he currently serves his time at San Quentin, trying to get an attorney to listen to his case and get him a new trial.  He also married a woman named Kelly Keniston, who helped him in his crusade to prove his innocence.

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