Conservation club slayings lead to life terms
Upper Sandusky, Ohio – A Tiffin, Ohio, man convicted in what a judge called an “execution” of two Carey Conservation Club members was sentenced May 7 to consecutive life sentences without parole.
Before announcing the decision in Wyandot County Common Pleas Court, Judge Kathleen Aubry had reviewed surveillance video of the shootings Nov. 1 that showed Richard Clark, 65, fatally shooting Carey farmer Roger Fredritz, 49, and Clark’s former girlfriend, Cynthia Hawkinberry, 49, of Tiffin, multiple times. In court, Aubry took time to look at more than 20 still photographs taken from the video before sentencing the teary-eyed Clark.
Aubry told Clark he had many chances Nov. 1 not to become a “cold and calculating” killer after he fired into a ceiling from inside the club filled with members socializing and playing billiards and darts. The club, a family-friendly conservation association formed in 1939, hosts activities such as fishing, trap shooting, and hunter-safety courses.
Photos reviewed by Ohio Outdoor News showed Clark talking with Hawkinberry and Fredritz before he left briefly and returned with a .22-caliber semiautomatic handgun that he then fired into the ceiling. Clark is next shown pointing the gun at the back of Fredritz’s head, and he fired once, William J. Latham, a prosecutor's investigator, testified. Clark fired a second shot at Fredritz as he lay on the floor while Hawkinberry tried to run from the club.
Another photo showed Clark grabbing Hawkinberry by her arm to pull her back from the door into the club where he tried to restrain her against the bar and she tried to push his weapon away, Latham testified. As she fell to the floor, a photo showed Clark straddling Hawkinberry before he shot her twice in the chest and twice in the head, according to testimony.
Photos also show Clark firing a third bullet into Fredritz's body, reloading his nine-shot handgun, and firing a fourth bullet into Fredritz before he leaves the club while smoking a cigarette, still armed with a handgun.
Clark was quickly taken into custody by Carey Police outside the club. Wyandot County Prosecutor Jonathan Miller praised the actions of law-enforcement responders as “heroic and courageous.” Police recovered 16 additional live rounds from Clark’s jacket, Latham testified.
Aubry described Clark’s actions as “narcissistic,” “cold and calculating,” and “not capable of mercy.” She described the slayings of unarmed, nonthreatening persons as an execution, “for that is what they truly were.”
Aubry said Clark was “only satisfied when he was sure they were dead.”
“If he really loved Cynthia, he would not have killed her,” Aubry said.
In addition to the life terms for aggravated murder of Fredritz and Hawkinberry, Aubry told Clark he was being sentenced to consecutive three-year prison terms because a gun was used in the killings, terms that must be served before the life sentences begin.
Prosecutor Miller had recommended Clark “spend the rest of his life in prison” with no chance of parole for the killings. Miller told Aubry “the relationship was over.” Hawkinberry had made arrangements to remove her final belongings from Clark’s residence shortly before her death, Miller said.
“This was a crime of possession,” Miller said. “Out of twisted love, if he could not have Cindy, Roger or no one else could have a relationship with her.”
Both Miller and Aubry stated that Clark showed “no genuine remorse” for the killings at the time of arrest or at previous court hearings.
Defense attorney Robert Grzybowski, of Lima, told Aubry that Clark “can’t explain the events of what happened on Nov. 1” at the Carey club.
“It’s a very sad situation,” he said.
At one point, Clark stood and turned to the victims' relatives and friends sitting in court to say “I am sorry” and started to cry.
Aubry listened as several members of Clark’s family and representatives of the victims addressed the court about the impact of the killings on family and the Carey community. Some of Fredritz's friends wore shirts decorated with Fredritz's favorite Ford farm tractors during the nearly hour-long hearing.
Clark’s former wife, Connie Bartlett, apologized to the families of the victims on Clark’s behalf. And to her former husband, she said, “I know you did want and plan for this to happen.”