Exceeding state guidelines, an Anne Arundel County judge handed down a 25-year prison sentence yesterday to a barber who nearly killed his ex-wife with a golf club in a rage in front of their children.
Circuit Judge Joseph P. Manck told David Keith Clark that he did not believe the Laurel man's contention that he showed up uninvited at his ex-wife's doorstep at 9:30 p.m. June 17 with a Ping golf putter in hand to play miniature golf with his children.
The judge said David Clark's visit was marked by an "evil intention."
Manck suspended 15 years of incarceration and ordered five years of probation. State sentencing guidelines called for 12 to 20 years in prison for what could have been a life sentence for attempted first-degree murder.
An investigation before the sentencing hearing suggested that the attack was so vicious that the penalty should exceed guidelines.
Clark beat his ex-wife with the golf club until the putter's head broke off. Then he stabbed her repeatedly with the club's sharp shaft, stopping to turn his ire and weapon on his former mother-in-law as two of his children watched.
"I just snapped, and I lost it," David Clark, 39, told Manck yesterday. "I am not making any excuses."
Assistant State's Attorney Pamela K. Alban said the attack on Army Maj. Placidia M. Clark, a nurse, and her mother was among the most cold-blooded and arrogant she had prosecuted.
In an assault that caused brain trauma leading to a seizure, Clark suffered a broken hand, permanent eye damage, a punctured lung, severe jaw injuries and other injuries for which she is being treated.
She spent 10 days at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, a month at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and several weeks in intensive physical therapy at a Veterans Affairs facility, then underwent outpatient therapy.
Alban said David Clark was furious about losing control over his former wife, incessantly calling her and dropping by unannounced. The couple had divorced six months before the attack.
In court, Placidia Clark described an abusive 10-year marriage that included counseling, separations and reconciliations. Alban said during the marriage military police had ordered David Clark out of Army housing.
In January last year, a month after the couple divorced, Clark, now 37, said her former spouse was threatening her. She was turned down for a restraining order, she said.
Alban said the attack occurred the day after Clark had stopped responding to her former husband's phone calls.
"He was angry that she cut him off from contact that day," Alban said.
Fifteen minutes after he got off the phone with one of their daughters, he was at Placidia Clark's Odenton townhouse doorstep. Alban said he forced his way in and attacked her.
"He didn't care that he did it in front of his two children," Alban said.
The 11-year-old, the eldest, ran to get a bat but stopped. "She wanted to hit him, but she did not want to be like him," Alban said.
When the Rev. Maria A. Pugh heard the commotion and then saw her former son-in-law stabbing her daughter, she tried to intervene. Pugh said her former son-in-law turned on her, stabbing her and sending her tumbling down a flight of stairs.
When Clark left, he walked out calmly, and when he was arrested shortly afterward, he admitted what he had done, Alban said.
"They not only had a failed marriage, but they had a failed divorce," said defense attorney Gill Cochran. "Unfortunately, this is a result of that."
Seeking leniency, Cochran said his client had no criminal history or other history of trouble.
Friends described the attack as an irrational act of an otherwise well-mannered, moral person.
Recalling David Clark as his brother's best friend in high school, Maurice B. Thomas credited David Clark with leading him to earn a college degree.
"It is very disappointing to be standing here today," he said.