Fam­ily speaks out in trial

The Covington News - - Front page - AM­BER PITTMAN apittman@cov­news.com

While the jury has de­cided that Pablo Mal­don­ado is guilty of the 2009 murder of Tim Clements, their job is far from done. They now have to de­cide if Mal­don­ado should live in prison or die by lethal in­jec­tion for the murder.

Af­ter a long week­end, ju­rors heard open­ing state­ments from both the de­fense and the pros­e­cu­tion in the penalty phase of the trial. Dis­trict At­tor­ney Layla Zon told ju­rors that aside from be­ing con­victed for the death of Clements, Mal­don­ado has “in no way been a

model in­mate at the New­ton County Jail.”

While de­fense at­tor­ney Stephen Yekel, told the ju­rors that the de­fense, and Mal­don­ado, were dis­ap­pointed with the guilty ver­dict handed down, and that Mal­don­ado was “not the mon­ster he’s been por­trayed as,” and cau­tioned them that sym­pa­thy for the Clements fam­ily can­not be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion dur­ing sen­tenc­ing.

“There’s no ques­tion in any­body’s mind that ev­ery­one in the Clements fam­ily and ev­ery­one he touched has suf­fered a loss... You have life in your hands. You will de­ter­mine what hap­pens to this man.”

The state then brought a parade of New­ton County Sher­iff’s Of­fice em­ploy­ees to tes­tify. Some are still in the jail, oth­ers have moved on, but all told the same tale: that Mal­don­ado has caused prob­lems since he came to the jail.

Many of the deputies tes­ti­fied to the same thing. That Mal­don­ado was quick to use pro­fan­ity and ra­cial ep­i­thets, to threaten and to refuse to com­ply with de­mands — es­pe­cially when those de­mands were for him to be inside his cell. One guard said that Mal­don­ado had cut mat­tresses and bro­ken the win­dow out of his cell, oth­ers told ju­rors how Mal­don­ado would rig his food flap (where guards could place meals) so that he could open it and reach out, and how he used pa­per and card­board to jam his cell door, mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble to open with­out as­sis­tance from the fire depart­ment.

On one oc­ca­sion, the locked door nearly cost Mal­don­ado his life, al- though, from tes­ti­mony from guards, it ap­peared that was the plan.

On Jan. 27, 2011, Mal­don­ado jammed his cell door and be­gan slic­ing his wrists and his neck with a ra­zor blade he had snuck into his cell. Ac­cord­ing to tes­ti­mony, Mal­don­ado threat­ened to cut any of the jail per­son­nel if they came inside the cell and at one point re­port­edly said, “Come on Pablo, you can do this. God, I’m com­ing.” The elec­tric­ity had to be cut so that fire­fight­ers could wedge the door open, but not be­fore Mal­don­ado at­tempted to hang him­self. He was pur­ple by the time they got inside the cell and had to be re­sus­ci­tated. He was taken to New­ton Med­i­cal Cen­ter where he re­ceived stitches in his wrist to close it up, and when he re­turned to the jail, he chewed the stitches out and had to go back to the hospi­tal to be re-stitched.

Yet an­other jail em­ployee tes­ti­fied that Mal­don­ado be­gan pass­ing her notes when she would drop his mail off. He sent one card, one draw­ing of her and sev­eral let­ters, which she turned over to Cap­tain Sammy Banks, who is in charge of the New­ton County Jail.

The em­ployee tes­ti­fied that it was not un­usual to speak with in­mates, and of­ten­times that was how they got in­for­ma­tion about what was go­ing on in the jail. She also said it was far from un­usual for fe­male guards to get com­ments and let­ters from the male in­mates. But she de­nied ever en­cour­ag­ing Mal­don­ado’s writ­ings, and said that she was very hap­pily mar­ried. She read the let­ters to the ju­rors.

In one let­ter, Mal­don­ado wrote that she “couldn’t hide from destiny” and that “thugs get lonely too.” He also called her a “price­less home­girl” and said a man like him “only comes around once in a life­time.” He also said that he could give her “two more gifts,” as long as she hadn’t “closed [her] womb yet.”

Be­fore the state con­cluded with their wit­nesses at 5:20 p.m., ju­rors heard emo­tional tes­ti­mony from the vic­tim’s fam­ily mem­bers and friends.

“To­day, we continue life with­out Tim, with­out my good friend,” said broth­erin-law Wayne Sti­fler. Friend Will DeBou­ver said Clements was like a brother to him and “was the kind­est man I have ever known.”

Bar­bara Clements, the widow of the vic­tim, showed the ju­rors pic­tures of their fam­ily, then told them that her life will be for­ever changed with­out Tim in it. The cou­ple were high school sweet­hearts and had been mar­ried nearly 30 years when he was killed.

“It has been very hard for me and my chil­dren not to have him in our lives. Tim could al­ways make our day bet­ter...it will take a long time for us to get back to a life with­out pain.”

The vic­tim’s son Kyle, who was 15 when his fa­ther was killed, told ju­rors he had to “be­come the man of our house­hold be­fore I was even a man.”

“I just know that for some rea­son, a great man was taken away from me and my fam­ily, but I will never for­get the things that he taught me... There are still many things I could have learned from him,” he said.

Last to tes­tify be­fore the state rested was Clements’ daugh­ter, just 9 years old when her fa­ther died.

“With­out my fa­ther, my life has changed dra­mat­i­cally. My fa­ther was a good man that lived a good life that was taken too soon... He was a good per­son with an in­cred­i­ble heart.”

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