Kelley Clayton Death: All About Kelley Clayton’s Murder Case
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This week, another national news show will talk about the brutal murder of Steuben County resident Kelley Stage Clayton and what happened afterward. This case still affects people in the Southern Tier even though it happened six years ago.
“Lies, Crimes & Video,” a CNN Headline News (HLN) documentary series, will start its fourth season on Sunday. It will look at the bludgeoning death of Kelley Clayton in her home, as well as the trial and conviction of her husband Thomas Clayton, and co-conspirator Michael Beard.
From shocking discoveries early in the investigation to the end of two emotionally charged murder trials, the show follows the twists and turns of a complicated and disturbing case.
Who Exactly Was Kelly Clayton?
Kelley Stage, the victim, was the youngest of three kids raised by Elizabeth Stage and the late Howard E. Stage, who was chief of the West Elmira Volunteer Fire Department for many years.
Kelley Stage Clayton, who is 35 years old, graduated from Elmira Free Academy in 1998. There, she was on the honour roll, cheered, and played softball.
In the early 2000s, she met Thomas Clayton when he was a pro hockey player. They married and had two children, a daughter named Charlie and a son named Cullen.
Who Exactly Is Thomas Clayton?
Clayton is from Binghamton, and he played hockey for the Elmira Jackals for four years. He joined the Jackals late in their second season as a forward. He had just graduated from Niagara University, where he had played hockey for four years, from 1998 to 2002.
Clayton had his own business after he stopped playing hockey. Paul Davis Emergency Services of the Southern Tier repaired fire and water damage.
Later, Clayton became the project manager at ServPro, a similar franchise owned by his longtime friend Brian Laing, who is also from Binghamton.
Just Who Is Michael Beard?
Michael Beard worked as a laborer in Elmira Heights, where he also lived. He worked at Paul Davis for Clayton and also did some work at ServPro.
Beard also rented an apartment from Clayton in the Village of Elmira Heights.
Beard usually assisted Clayton with farm chores in rural southeast Steuben County, so he was familiar with the construction of Clayton’s residence.
A Crime That Sent Shockwaves Through The South
Before midnight on September 28, 2015, Kelley Clayton was killed in her home at 2181 Ginnan Road in the Town of Caton.
Thomas Clayton had been at a weekly poker game with friends in Corning all night. When he got home around 12:30 a.m. on September 29, he called 911 to report a murder.
Thomas Clayton was suspected immediately, and the Steuben County Sheriff’s Office charged him with second-degree murder at day’s end.
Within a few days, investigators had reason to think there was a more complicated plan at play: Clayton had planned a murder-for-hire scheme with Beard, and Beard had actually done the killing.
Beard told investigators at first that Clayton had offered to pay him $10,000 to kill Kelley and set Kelley’s house on fire so that Clayton could get the insurance money. He told the grand jury the same story over and over again.
Both men were charged with first-degree murder because of this.
Beard later changed his story and said that Clayton only asked him to burn down the house when no one was there.
He said Kelley was already dead when he got there, and he ran away out of fear.
Prosecutors must find a way to link Thomas Clayton to the murder.
Beard was convicted of first- and second-degree murder in November 2016. Judge Peter Bradstreet of Steuben County at the time gave him a life sentence without the chance to get out.
The Case Against Thomas Clayton Was More Convoluted
All the physical evidence pointed to Beard, but Beard changed his confession and story at his own trial, so prosecutors couldn’t call him to testify against Clayton.
Instead, special prosecutor Weeden Wetmore used a lot of indirect evidence to link Clayton to Beard and the murder of Kelley.
Clayton was convicted of first- and second-degree murder in February 2017 following a nearly seven-week trial.
Bradstreet also gave him a sentence of life in prison without the chance to get out.
Both men tried to change their sentences, but both were turned down. Clayton is in prison in Ossining, New York, at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility. Beard is being kept in jail at the Auburn Correctional Facility.
“My Wife Is Dead,” He said
The first episode of the new season of “Lies, Crimes, and Videos,” called “Poker Night Murder,” starts with a recording of Thomas Clayton telling a 911 operator that he just got back from a poker game in Corning and found Kelley dead when he got home.
Clayton can be heard telling the operator, “Help me, help me, my wife is dead.” “I just got home. The kids got up and told their parents that there was a thief in the house.”
The audio plays over a clip of a video shot by Steuben County sheriff’s deputy Dean Swan, who was the first officer to respond to the call, as he looked around the murder scene while wearing a body camera.
The show then mixes footage from the crime scene and other places with interviews from Wetmore, his chief assistant Susan Rider-Ulacco, and Kelley’s sister, Kim Bourgeois.
One of the most scary parts is a video clip of an interview with Kelley’s daughter Charlie, in which she tells then-Steuben County Undersheriff Jim Allard that she saw the murder.
“Someone came and hit my mom with something like a pipe. When I saw her lying on the ground, I thought she was dead “in the interview, she said. “He looked like my dad,” she said.
The show also goes over Thomas Clayton’s love of money and gambling, as well as his extramarital affairs with more than one woman.
The program also reveals that in his initial testimony to the police, Beard said that Clayton had informed him that his children would be with family on the night that he intended to kill Kelley and burn the house and garage on fire in order to collect insurance money.
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