Killing followed hours of drinking, scuffling, lawyer says
The last night of Jason Everette Clark's life was a long one.
And the man who killed him, Robert Steven Hawkins, maintains that the night was filled with drinking, watching sports, some pills, a little martial arts roughhousing and finally threats by Clark that prompted the stabbing that killed him, Hawkins' attorney said Wednesday in court.
Hawkins, now 45, and Clark, then 38, were drinking buddies, defense attorney J. Gary Vannoy said during opening statements in Hawkins' murder trial in Caldwell Superior Court. On the night of Oct. 19, 2010, Clark called Hawkins and asked him to come over to his house at 2324 Alfred Hartley Road and watch a Monday Night Football game and an American League Championship Series baseball game.
Hawkins arrived with a bottle of Aristocrat vodka, and the two settled in, alternating shots of vodka with Busch beer, and Clark even took some Xanax, Vannoy said in his opening statement.
At some point, Clark wanted to show Hawkins some moves in jiu jitsu, a type of martial art, that he had learned, Vannoy said, but it got rough and Clark struck Hawkins in the neck hard enough that Hawkins had trouble breathing. They began to wrestle, but then they stopped for awhile and settled back down again.
Later, while both sat on the couch, Clark pulled another jiu jitsu move, Vannoy said, and Hawkins struck back. But they again resumed watching TV.
At some point Hawkins went to the kitchen for a beer, Vannoy said, and Clark soon rounded a corner holding a double-barrel shotgun pointed at Hawkins' head, yelling, "Tonight is your night." Hawkins picked up a kitchen knife and slipped it into his jacket while begging Clark not to shoot. Hawkins headed for the front door, and Clark threw the vodka bottle, which flew by Hawkins' head and shattered an aquarium nearby.
Vannoy said that Clark told Hawkins, "Sit back down, you're not going anywhere." But then, distracted by two sounds outside, Clark walked to the bedroom, and Hawkins went for the front door and managed to unlock it but was grabbed by Clark. Hawkins gripped the kitchen knife in his hand, and the two struggled over it and fell onto the couch.
"Robert knew if Clark got the knife he'd be dead," Vannoy said.
Hawkins stabbed Clark on the left side of his neck, severing an artery, and in the abdomen.
Clark made it to his kitchen and called 911 just after 5 a.m. Oct. 20. In the recording of that call, played for the jurors Wednesday, Clark's pleas for help were muffled and garbled, but a voice -- which Assistant District Attorney Nancy Lee told jurors was Hawkins -- could be heard in the background saying, "Die. Aren't you dead yet?" and, "Don't you ever threaten me with a gun."
The call was disconnected about 10 minutes later. A 911 dispatcher called the number back, and after five rings Hawkins picked up and said: "I just killed Jason Clark. He pulled a gun on me. I pulled a knife and stuck him with it. ... My name is Robert Steven Hawkins, and I just stabbed him in the (expletive) neck. He's dead."
When sheriff's deputies arrrived at the house, they heard Hawkins calling to them in the darkened driveway. Cpl. Chad Price of the Caldwell County Sheriff's Office testified that after Hawkins was handcuffed, he yelled: "He pointed a double-barrel shotgun at me three times. I stabbed the (expletive) (expletive) out of him. I killed that (expletive)."
When deputies entered the house, they found Clark slumped on the kitchen floor, legs folded "Indian-style," leaning back and to the left against a cabinet, blood pouring from the wound in his neck. Blood was in several rooms of the house, and beer cans and beer cartons littered the kitchen floor. The refrigerator door was still open, and the TV was turned up, a deputy testified.
Prosecutor Lee said that once at the sheriff's office, Hawkins had a different story -- that a gang of crack dealers came to the house and killed Clark -- and proclaimed that story repeatedly.
"He tried to sell his story to everyone who goes by in the sheriff's department," Lee said.
Investigators did not find the knife used to stab Clark, Lee said. The knife, with Clark's blood on it, was found a month later by Clark's father under a couch cushion.
Testimony in the trial resumes today.