Maurice Clemmons, man wanted for questioning, has troubling criminal history
The man sought for questioning in the execution of four Lakewood police officers was granted clemency in 2000 by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and released on bail just six days ago on a child rape charge in Washington state.
Coverage from the days following the Lakewood shootings
Maurice Clemmons, the 37-year-old Tacoma man being sought for questioning in the killing this morning of four Lakewood police officers, has a long criminal record punctuated by violence, erratic behavior and concerns about his mental health.
Nine years ago, then-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee granted clemency to Clemmons, commuting his lengthy prison sentence over the protests of prosecutors.
"This is the day I've been dreading for a long time," Larry Jegley, prosecuting attorney for Arkansas' Pulaski County said tonight when informed that Clemmons was being sought for questioning in connection with the killings.
Clemmons' criminal history includes at least five felony convictions in Arkansas and at least eight felony charges in Washington. The record also stands out for the number of times he has been released from custody despite questions about the danger he posed.
Huckabee, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination last year, issued a statement tonight calling the slaying of the police officers "a horrible and tragic event."
If Clemmons is found responsible, "it will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington State," Huckabee said.
He added that Clemmons' release from prison had been reviewed and approved by the Arkansas parole board.
Clemmons had been in jail in Pierce County for the past several months on a pending charge of second-degree rape of a child. He was released from custody just six days ago, even though was staring at seven additional felony charges in Washington state.
Clemmons posted $15,000 with a Chehalis company called Jail Sucks Bail Bonds. The bondsman, in turn, put up $150,000, securing Clemmons' release on the pending child-rape charge.
Clemmons lives in Tacoma, where he has run a landscaping and power-washing business out of his house, according to a police interview with his wife earlier this year.
He was married, but the relationship was tumultuous, with accounts of his unpredictable behavior leading to at least two confrontations with police earlier this year.
During the confrontation in May, Clemmons punched a sheriff's deputy in the face, according to court records. As part of that incident, he was charged with seven counts of assault and malicious mischief.
In another instance, Clemmons was accused of gathering his wife and young relatives around at 3 or 4 in the morning and having them all undress. He told them that families need to "be naked for at least 5 minutes on Sunday," a Pierce County sheriff's report says.
"The whole time Clemmons kept saying things like trust him, the world is going to end soon, and that he was Jesus," the report says.
As part of the child-rape investigation, the sheriff's office interviewed Clemmons' sister in May. She told them that "Maurice is not in his right mind and did not know how he could react when contacted by Law Enforcement," a sheriff's report says.
"She stated that he was saying that the secret service was coming to get him because he had written a letter to the President. She stated his behavior has become unpredictable and erratic. She suspects he is having a mental breakdown," the report says.
Deputies also interviewed other family members. They reported that Clemmons had been saying he could fly and that he expected President Obama to visit to "confirm that he is Messiah in the flesh."
Prosecutors in Pierce County were sufficiently concerned about Clemmons' mental health that they asked to have him evaluated at Western State Hospital. Earlier this month, on Nov. 6, a psychologist concluded that Clemmons was competent to stand trial on the child-rape and other felony charges, according to court records.
Clemmons moved Washington in 2004, after being released from prison in Arkansas, state Department of Corrections records indicate. That would mean he had gone five years or so before landing in serious trouble with authorities here, according to a review of his criminal record.
Clemmons started Sea-Wash Pressure Washing Landscaping with his wife, Nicole Smith, in October 2005. The license for the business expired last month.
Long history of trouble in Arkansas
News accounts out of Arkansas offer a confusing — and, at times, conflicting — description of Clemmons' criminal history and prison time.
In 1990, Clemmons, then 18, was sentenced in Arkansas to 60 years in prison for burglary and theft of property, according to a news account in Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Newspaper stories describe a series of disturbing incidents involving Clemmons while he was being tried in Arkansas on various charges.
During one trial, Clemmons was shackled in leg irons and seated next to a uniformed officer. The presiding judge ordered the extra security because he felt Clemmons had threatened him, court records show.
Another time, Clemmons hid a hinge in his sock, and was accused of intending to use it as a weapon. Yet another time, Clemmons took a lock from a holding cell, and threw it toward the bailiff. He missed and instead hit Clemmons' mother, who had come to bring him street clothes, according to records and published reports.
On another occasion, Clemmons had reached for a guard's pistol during transport to the courtroom.
When Clemmons received the 60-year sentence, he was already serving 48 years on five felony convictions and facing up to 95 more years on charges of robbery, theft of property and possessing a handgun on school property. Records from Clemmons' sentencing described him as 5-foot-7 and 108 pounds. The crimes were committed when he was 17.
Clemmons served 11 years before being released.
News accounts say Huckabee commuted Clemmons' sentence, citing Clemmons' young age at the time the crimes were committed.
But Clemmons remained on parole — and soon after landed in trouble again. In March 2001, he was accused of violating his parole by committing aggravated robbery and theft, according to a story in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
He was returned to prison on a parole violation. But in what appears to have been a mistake, Clemmons was not actually served with the arrest warrants until leaving prison three years later. As a result, Clemmons' attorney argued that the charges should be dismissed because too much time had passed. Prosecutors dropped the charges.
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