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Jury hears allegations in second day of Cleary homicide trial

May 18, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -The jury in the William Cleary homicide trial Tuesday heard allegations that he threatened his estranged wife three days before she was stabbed to death and told a co-worker that he intended to kill Teresa Cleary.

Cleary, 31, of 137 E. Garfield St., is charged with first-degree murder in the July 6, 2002, stabbing death of Teresa Cleary in the front yard of her town house on Lincoln Way East in Fayetteville, Pa. On Monday, the jury of nine men and three women heard testimony from several eyewitnesses to the killing.

Trooper William Confer testified Tuesday that he went to Teresa Cleary's home on the evening of July 3. Confer said she told him that her husband entered the house and went up to the second-floor bathroom, where they got into an argument.

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Teresa Cleary called police, but the call was interrupted. Confer testified that Teresa Cleary told him that William Cleary had pulled the phone line out of the wall.

Confer testified she also told him her husband verbally had threatened her life.

"Something about coming back from ball practice and putting a bullet in her head if he wanted to," Confer testified about what she told him.

Teresa Cleary called police again later that night, saying she had seen her husband drive by her home, Confer testified. When police arrived, Confer testified she was on the phone with Cleary and the trooper then spoke to him, asking that he come to the police barracks in Chambersburg.

On cross-examination by defense attorney Andrew Norfleet, Confer said there was no evidence of a physical assault and no charges were filed against William Cleary.

Zachary Smith, 15, Teresa Cleary's son, testified he was staying at a friend's that evening, but arrived at his mother's home shortly before police.

"She was on the couch ... She was huddled up in a ball," Smith testified. He described his mother as "Scared. Kind of mad."

Holly Funk, a co-worker of William Cleary at a Chambersburg distribution center in 2002, testified she was working with him on July 5 in a loading area when he slammed his hand against a trailer and said he was going to kill his wife.

"He was angry. He was ticked off," Funk testified. Two days earlier, she also had been working with Cleary, whom she testified, "didn't talk very nicely about her. He called her names."

"He thought she was fooling around on him," Funk said of the July 3 conversation.

Funk, however, testified she did not tell police about the conversations until January of this year. Pennsylvania State Police had not contacted her in the days after the killing, she testified.

Whether the killing was premeditated could mean the difference between William Cleary being convicted of first-degree murder and receiving a mandatory life sentence, or his conviction on a lesser degree of homicide. In his opening statement, Norfleet said Cleary did not go to the house with the intention of killing his estranged wife, but lost control when she allegedly told him she had been unfaithful.

Earlier in the day, forensic pathologist Samuel Land testified about the injuries he found during the autopsy on Teresa Cleary's body.

Cleary had seven stab wounds, including one to the right side of her neck that went through her jugular vein and would have been a "rapidly fatal wound," Land testified. Another wound above her left collarbone severed her carotid artery and also would have been fatal, he testified.

A third wound to her right arm also could have resulted in death, having cut into a major artery, Land testified. Teresa Cleary also had bruises to the side of her face, her right forearm and her right thigh, he testified.

William Cleary called Teresa Cleary 35 times between July 3 and 6, according to records of his cellular telephone calls, Corporal Gary Carter testified. Many of the calls lasted a matter of seconds, although a few lasted several minutes. The last call was made at 10:33 a.m. on July 6, about half an hour before the fatal assault, according to the records cited by Carter.

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