Woman sent to prison in spouse's death

Manslaughter conviction draws 7-year sentence

Wife said she had been abused

Husband's family vows to oppose parole requests

May 30, 2002|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

An Anne Arundel County circuit judge gave a seven-year prison sentence yesterday to a Pasadena woman who claimed she was a battered spouse and who killed her estranged husband a day before he was expected to win custody of their son.

Kelly Clutter, 35, looked relieved but sad as she turned toward friends and relatives in the packed courtroom at the end of a two-hour hearing before Judge Philip T. Caroom. She could have received 30 years in prison for the killing of David Clutter Sr., 32. The seven years for manslaughter and a gun violation means she could be released in about three years.

The family of her husband, David Clutter Sr., immediately vowed to oppose any parole request she might make.

"She got what she deserved. I loved seeing her going out with those handcuffs. It made my day," said David Somers, David Clutter Sr.'s uncle, who planned to illuminate 1,000 tiny bulbs on a cherry tree in his Pasadena yard to mark the sentencing.

But Joe Ireland, the woman's father, remains convinced that his daughter is no criminal.

"I personally think she should come home with us," he said after the hearing. "All the things that happened over time - my daughter was the victim."

Charged with first-degree murder, Clutter was convicted in April of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of her husband Christmas Day 2000.

The weeklong trial presented opposing views of the downward spiral of the Clutters' 11-year marriage.

In the prosecution's version, Kelly Clutter bought a gun and lured her estranged husband to her home so she could kill him with the weapon she loaded the night before. In the defense's version, she was the victim of an intimidating spouse who outweighed her by about 150 pounds and who raped, beat and threatened her, forced her to sleep on the floor and to go without food.

Yesterday, Caroom did not seem to fully believe either version. He said that while her husband might have done things to cause her to be afraid, she had no reason that day to pump two bullets into him. He said she could have called 911, sought more help from the courts - she had a protective order - or taken other action.

"By killing David Clutter, she made victims of her own family and his own family and, most importantly, of her son," Caroom said.

But much of yesterday's hearing involved discussion of which spouse was the victim.

"For 10 years, I was mentally, physically and sexually abused by my husband," Kelly Clutter told Caroom. "David may have been nice to a lot of people, but he was horrible to me."

She said that after she left him, her husband continued to try to control her life, and she described a failed suicide attempt on her part.

Others testifying on her behalf said they once saw the defendant's arm in a sling because her husband had twisted it.

But that was not the David Clutter Sr. described by his family as an even-tempered, big-hearted man who loved his family life, was like a brother to his cousin and is sorely missed.

"He was a good husband, father and a son I am proud of," said Barbara Orndorff, his mother.

The sentencing does not end hostilities between the families of the defendant and David Clutter Sr. Their 9-year-old son, David Jr., lives with his paternal grandmother and is the subject of a bitter visitation fight.

The boy has not seen his mother or her family in months and, Orndorff said, has no wish to. He sleeps wearing his father's jacket, and in his letter to the court wrote about his bond with his father.

"We played a game called Play Station Two together and he would let me win. I am really sorry for my daddy cause I miss him. I love Daddy to infinity and beyond," he wrote, using the phrase from the film Toy Story.

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