Kelly Clark

Kelly Clark

A judge said on June 27 that a 13-year prison sentence for attempted murder is justified for Kelly Clark, a town of Louisa resident.

Clark, 47, was found guilty by a jury in April of trying to kill Glenn Payne, a Louisa County Sheriff’s Office deputy, on Dec. 26, 2016. Louisa Circuit Court Judge Timothy Sanner upheld the 10-year sentence the jury recommended, plus two years for assaulting Payne and one year for attempting to disarm him.

Before he was sentenced, Clark challenged the assertion that he was high on cocaine at the time of the incident, calling it an “assumption.” Louisa County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rusty McGuire presented no evidence of cocaine use, but told the jury it was plausible given Clark’s bizarre behavior toward Payne.

“We know there was something going on with Mr. Clark that made him act in this manner, and we’re backing into what it was,” Paul Gregorio, his attorney, said in court. “He had all this trauma as a result of a situation that is still not explained.”

McGuire also suggested Clark could have been affected by abuse of suboxone, for which he had a legal prescription to treat an opioid addiction. 

Clark was initially charged with attempted capital murder. Sanner reduced the charge to attempted second-degree murder during Clark’s first trial in 2017, which ended with a hung jury. A second trial in 2018 ended the same way after three jurors revealed they had conflicts with people involved in the case.

The confrontation between Clark and Payne occurred in the middle of the night on a curve of Louisa Road (Rt. 22), west of Boswell’s Tavern. Clark had crashed his car into a row of trees in front of a house just past the curve. When Payne arrived on scene, Clark ran into the woods, yelling for help. Payne assumed he was dealing with a drunk driver. 

A short time later, after Payne found Clark on the road and tried to talk with him, Clark lunged at the deputy and tried to grab his gun. The two men wrestled briefly before Payne shot Clark once in the chest.

It was never made clear in court why Clark was driving west on Louisa Road at the time of the incident. But McGuire said the likely explanation was that Clark knew his wife was in Charlottesville visiting a cousin and was headed that way.

Sanner said the 13-year sentence is justified, given the evidence presented during the trial and the trauma Payne suffered. He made no direct comment about the allegations of substance abuse. However, when Gregorio mentioned the lack of evidence of drug use, Sanner interrupted him to comment that University of Virginia Medical Center did not test Clark’s blood or urine.

An emergency room nurse wanted to test Clark for drugs, but it was not done because hospital staff were focused on saving his life, McGuire said. 

Clark’s defense during the April trial was that he had suffered low blood sugar, causing him to become agitated. His doctor diagnosed him with diabetes after he was in a motor vehicle accident in 2015 and prescribed him metformin, which is used to treat high blood sugar. Robert Wood, deputy commonwealth’s attorney, said during the trial that diabetic patients who experience a high blood sugar tend to be lethargic. A low blood sugar is more likely to lead to the sort of behavior Clark exhibited, he said.

Clark’s daughter, Kwarnasia, testified that he had a low blood sugar reading a few hours before the incident. But she was unable to produce evidence to back up her claim, such as the machine she used to test his sugar level.

Clark has retained a new attorney as he considers appealing the verdict.  

Cassie Clark, Kelly’s wife, was found guilty of perjury and giving conflicting evidence in court on matters related to her husband’s case after a trial on June 20. She is due to be sentenced on Sept. 16. Kwarnasia Clark is scheduled to be tried on the same charges on Sept. 23.