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Carey Clark

Other North Carolina Exonerations
On June 17, 1981, 50-year-old Kenneth Davis was shot to death with a shotgun just outside the door to his apartment in Newland, North Carolina.

Davis earned a living driving residents of rural Avery County to their jobs. When he failed to show up on the morning of June 18, police were dispatched and found him lying in the doorway of the apartment.

There were no suspects and the murder went unsolved for 14 years. In the summer of 1995, an anonymous informant told the Avery County Sheriff’s Department that 51-year-old Carey Clark had admitted to members of his family that he killed Davis.

Detectives interviewed family members who said that on numerous occasions over the past decade Clark said that he killed Davis because Davis, citing nonpayment, had stopped driving Clark’s wife to work.

Clark was arrested in June 1995 and went to trial in Avery County Circuit Court in March 1996.

Over the objection of Clark’s defense attorney, Clark’s sister-in-law, Ivalee Clark testified that Clark’s mother Lona (who died prior to the trial) came to Ivalee’s home the day before Davis’s body was found. Ivalee said that Lona’s face was red and she was picking her teeth, a nervous habit she had when upset.

Ivalee testified that Lona told her it was the worst day of her life because Clark “had been fussing all day and that he called the light company and he had really cussed them out. They had cut his power off. Then she said he had started on Ken Davis because he had put (Clark’s wife) Laura off the van. (Davis) had quit letting her ride the van and (Clark) said he was going to kill Ken.”

Two of Clark’s sisters, Patricia Allen and Leowana Wortman, testified that at the time Davis was killed, Clark and his wife were having financial difficulties and Davis had threatened to stop driving Clark’s wife to work unless Clark paid him for overdue driving fees. They testified that Clark, after saying he was going to kill Davis, left home on June 17, 1981 and did not come back until the morning Davis’s body was found.

Leowana and Patricia testified that they overheard Clark saying that he had been lying in wait for someone and had shot and killed someone. Over the years, they claimed Clark said that he was going to kill various other people like he had killed Davis, and that after killing Davis, he had destroyed the murder weapon in a stove.

Clark testified in his own defense and denied involvement with Davis’s death. He told the jury that he was being set up by his sister, Patricia Allen. He said that when his mother died, she left land to Patricia and his brother, Howard Clark, on the condition that Clark could live on the land as long as he behaved to Patricia’s satisfaction. Clark testified that in the summer of 1995, he had a dispute with Patricia and Howard, and Patricia filed a criminal complaint against him to get him evicted from his shack on the property. Clark testified that not long after he demanded a jury trial on the complaint, the anonymous tip was made to the Sheriff’s Department.

The defense called Clark’s cousin, Mary Hodges, but before allowing Hodges to testify before the jury, the judge ordered her to testify outside the jury’s presence so he could determine whether her testimony was admissible.

Hodges told the judge that on June 5, 1995, Clark’s sister, Leowana Wortman, telephoned her and said that the family—and Patricia in particular—was attempting to frame Clark for Davis’s murder. Hodges also testified that after Clark was arrested and was released on bond in the eviction matter, Patricia called her and asked “what would it take” to keep Clark in jail.

After hearing Hodge’s proposed testimony, the judge granted an objection by the prosecution and refused to permit her to testify to the jury.

On March 28, 1996, the jury convicted Clark of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison.

While the case was on appeal, Leowana Wortman recanted her testimony, saying she had been coerced by Patricia and Howard to falsely claim that Clark had made admissions about the murder. She told Clark’s defense attorney that Patricia threatened to make a false complaint with the state Department of Social Services so that they would take custody of Leowana’s children.

On March 3, 1998, the Court of Appeals of North Carolina vacated Clark’s conviction and ordered a new trial. The appellate court held that the trial judge should have allowed Hodges to testify on Clark’s behalf.

On March 31, 1998, the Avery County District Attorney dismissed the charge and Clark was released.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 9/14/2015
State:North Carolina
County:Avery
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1981
Convicted:1996
Exonerated:1998
Sentence:Life
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:37
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No