Police and neighbors were puzzled yesterday over why an Allegany County man barricaded himself and his wife in their home for about two hours Christmas Eve, then fatally shot her on her 39th birthday before killing himself.
State police from the Cumberland barracks said David Eugene Clark, 43, of Lonaconing brandished two revolvers and an assault rifle to hold off troopers who wanted to talk to him about a minor hit-and-run accident he was involved in that day.
Clark held his wife hostage, injured a state trooper with a shot from his rifle, and later killed Nikki Lynn Clark with two shots to the head, police said. They found David Clark dead moments later with a gun by his side.
The tragedy has stunned relatives and neighbors who knew the couple.
"She was a very industrious, nice girl," Irma Getson said of her niece. "This is one of those terrible things."
Said Charles F. Sloan Jr., a neighbor who has known the two since they were children: "This whole scenario is just a tragic shock to me and most other people here."
Lonaconing, a close-knit former mining town of 1,100 residents, is about 20 miles southeast of Cumberland.
Police said the incident began at about 5: 35 p.m. Tuesday, when troopers responded to a report of a two-car accident in Lonaconing in which one driver left the scene. Police traced the tag number reported by a witness to an automobile registered to David Clark.
When troopers arrived, they found him outside his home in the first block of Dudley St. He then ran into the house and locked the front door, police said.
His wife's mother, Darlene Winters, was allowed into the house. She came outside to inform police that her son-in-law had a gun and would not release his wife. She left the house before the shootings.
Troopers established telephone contact with Clark, who said he would not leave his home alive and demanded to see his father, said Cpl. Andrew Smith, the duty officer.
"He wanted his father at the scene," Smith said yesterday, adding that Clark's father was 45 minutes away. "He was very demanding and uncooperative."
When police talked again to Winters outside the home, David Clark opened the front door, shouted obscenities and fired several shots from his assault rifle at the state police cruisers.
Tfc. Rick Sivic was struck in the forehead by bullet fragments. He was treated at Sacred Heart Hospital and released, Smith said. Troopers did not return fire.
After shooting at the troopers, Clark re-entered the house, and the troopers heard gunshots inside, Smith said.
When they approached the house, they found Clark lying on the living room floor with a .357-caliber revolver by his side and a .44-caliber Magnum revolver in his belt.
Police found the body of Nikki Clark, who turned 39 Tuesday, in the bathtub.
Although David Clark, who had no criminal record, left the scene of the accident that day, police do not know why he killed his wife and then himself.
"Christmas Eve is renowned for [domestic altercations], but in this case, it didn't start off as a domestic," Smith said. "We don't know why he reacted the way he did."
Getson said her niece and David Clark worked at Frostburg State University for several years. It was not known whether the couple still worked there. Nikki Clark had two college-age children from a previous marriage, her aunt said.
Getson said the tragedy has shaken her sister, Winters, and Winters' husband, Paul.
Tuesday "night, all she kept on saying was, 'I can't understand why he would do that. I never thought he would hurt her,' " Getson said. "She's broken up."
Virginia Bennett, who grew up with Nikki Clark's younger brother, said the couple seemed happy.
"They were neighbors who always waved, which is uncommon nowadays," Bennett said. "There's nothing I could say wrong about them."
Pub Date: 12/26/96