Josh Clark never saw it coming.
He and his wife Allison were like any other young couple. Sure, they argued from time to time, and Josh admits that there are some things he would’ve done differently, maybe spend more time with his wife and two daughters after he got off work. But he maintains unequivocally, she was his best friend.
“I loved Allison,” he says in his first interview since Allison’s death on West Port Arthur Road May 14, 2010. Allison, 24, was found shot to death that Friday night, the victim of a single bullet wound that passed through the window of the family’s Ford Excursion, entered into the left side of her chest, and passed through her body before exiting the right side and lodging into the seat of the massive SUV.
The vehicle slowed to a stop on the inside lane of West Port Arthur Road as Allison was headed to Wal-Mart, daughter Cadence in the backseat sound asleep. She managed to turn on the vehicle’s hazard lights, appeared to have fumbled for her cell phone, as blood was found on it. When police arrived, Allison was already dead. No witnesses. No physical evidence other than the bullet lodged in the seat.
Suddenly at 25 years old, Josh Clark, who had been with Allison for seven years, found himself a widow, single father and a person of interest in his wife’s murder. 15 months later, the now 26-year-old Clark remains a widow, single father and person of interest in his wife’s murder.
“At the very beginning, I knew it was going to happen,” Clark said of being a person of interest. “Being the spouse, she had no enemies, I knew it. But for the first six months, every time I’d talk to the detectives, the (Texas) Rangers, it was nothing but humbling. Yes sir, No Sir, that sort of thing.”
“But it got to the point, during the interviews, the interrogation, whatever you want to call it, whenever they would try to get a rise out of me, and then my exact thoughts while they were doing that was, ‘if I blow up right now, they’re going to lock me up and throw me in jail, and call me unstable.
“But I told them everything and gave them a lot of detail on everything they asked,” Clark said.
Clark felt the information he was giving police they used against him.
“It ended up biting me in the butt because a lot of the little things that I said they turned into mountains.”
Clark said he turned over cell phones, computers and anything else that the detectives asked for to aid in the investigation. Josh, who was accompanied by his mother and father, Melissa and Ed Clark, for the interview, maintains his innocence and is steadfast that he had nothing to do with his wife’s murder.
“She drove away to the store and left my life,” says Josh solemnly.
Despite catching some flak for answering a question “wrong” on his first polygraph test, which Josh says he stalled on the answer when asked if he knew who killed his wife. Thinking it was a random gang act, he still said no, which lead to an inconclusive result on the first polygraph. However, Josh’s hesitation was not out of the ordinary, and his explanation for why he hesitated is not uncommon according to police. When he took the second polygraph, he passed it with no problems.
When asked point blank during this interview if he killed his wife , without any hesitation, he replied, “hell no.”
After meeting at the Silsbee race track, where Allison, a Nederland High graduate, sold tickets in the stands and Josh was a dirt track racer, the couple eventually moved to Florida and Josh worked for his dad’s business. The family returned to Texas in 2007, stayed with Allison’s family before moving to Lumberton and then eventually settling in Beauxart Gardens where they lived only three blocks away from her parents, Gary and Sharon Neil.
Josh said it was his wife’s bubbly personality and overall constant happiness that always appealed to him.
“We had a very joking relationship, we would wrestle all the time over a kiss, you know, instead of saying I Love You, we’d say ‘I hate you’, but that was how we joked, that was our relationship,” said Josh. “She had three older brothers, and she was tomboyish some of the time.”
A crane operator now, Josh was going through an apprenticeship program at the time Allison was murdered and was working 10 hours a day, five days a week.
“I worked, I brought home the money; she was a typical stay-at-home mom, always going down the road, to her mom’s house, doing stuff for her nieces and nephews. I’d always try to help, but she was too proud to ask for help,” Josh said.
The couple was actually discussing having a third child, months before Allison was murdered. Josh said she had always wanted a big wedding, but the couple initially went the peace bond route. Later on she wanted that big wedding again, but the more she started to see the cost and work that went into a large-scale wedding, Josh says Allison started to abandon those plans and the couple then directed their attention to having a son.
“She said after four kids, they were done,” said Ed Clark, reminiscing on the charm and power of persuasion that Allison wielded. As the Clarks put it, any one was susceptible to Allison’s beaming smile.
For the Clark family, after a tumultuous period following the move back to Texas from Florida, the time around Allison’s death appeared to be at a time when things were finally looking up for the young family.
“It was starting to calm down, we were getting our bills under control,” Josh said.
“They were finally on an even keel, there were no more mountains and valleys, it was stabilizing,” said Ed Clark.
The night of the murder, according to Josh, it wasn’t an especially different Friday night from any other Friday for the family of four. Josh had spent another long day working on his apprenticeship, and then got home, cleaned up, ate and chatted with Allison.
“From what I remember, we talked about going back to church, and then she went back to her mom’s house after that,” said Josh. “After she got back, she and her brother Jake were thinking about going fishing at a local fishing hole that was down the road. I didn’t go; they did but came back because the gate to get there was locked. And when she came back, she said she was going to Wal-Mart, and she usually goes late at night because no one was there. She took Cadence, and I stayed with Makayla who had just fallen asleep,” said Josh.
Right before Allison left, Josh remembers the last conversation he had with his wife.
“I told her as she was walking out the door, ‘don’t spend all of my money,” and she said smiling, ‘don’t worry, I will.”
Allison left, and roughly an hour later, Josh noticed she’d been gone awhile. Then a phone call came. He missed the first call, but the phone rang again shortly after. It was his brother, Corey.
“Get to West Port Arthur, take a left, something has happened to Allison,” was the message over the phone from his brother.
“What are you talking about, what’s going on?” Josh asked.
“Just do it, go now,” said his brother.
He took off for West Port Arthur, which is less than a mile from the family’s home in Beauxart Gardens, made the left and quickly encountered Port Arthur Police who had blocked off the road.
“They wouldn’t let me pass, even after I told them something happened to my wife,” said Josh, “so I started to head back home, and I called Corey, and I asked him, ‘what’s going on,’ thinking it was a wreck or something. So I asked him what hospital they were taking her to and he said, ‘she’s gone.’”
“I went home and everything was fuzz.”
“It just didn’t seem real,” he said of coming to grips with the loss of his wife, “I was devastated.”
While the Clark family is unhappy with how the investigation has transpired, they argue that the Port Arthur Police Department has spent too much time focusing on Josh. Sgt. Scott Gaspard, who along with Det. Brian Fanette, has spent a great deal of time working the case, disagrees and says his department has worn out every lead they’ve come across.
“Right now, we don’t know who did it, but we can’t rule him out,” said Gaspard, who added that his team of investigators as well as the Texas Rangers have chased down anonymous tips, interviewed dozens of people and have looked at video made available to them from nearby where Allison’s vehicle ultimately stopped.
One of the main problems for detectives, they don’t have much to work with.
“There’s hardly any evidence and we’ve got no witnesses,” said Gaspard, a 22-year veteran of law enforcement who’s worked his share of murder cases.
There’s also been some misunderstanding between the detectives and the Clark family. For instance there were questions from the Clark family regarding a possible NASA satellite that may have taken pictures. However, the PAPD has a person it reaches out to who can use NASA equipment to enhance photos and still shots to get a better look. Police were able to look at still shot photos taken from a nearby convenience store’s security camera, but they didn’t produce anything tangible for detectives to use.
Gaspard said he understands the family’s frustration, both the Clarks and especially the Neils, who are still searching for closure in their daughter’s death.
“We want justice for the family,” said Gaspard, “we understand this is not easy for the family, but we’ve worked relentlessly on this and we’ve spent just as much time looking at other people as we have Josh.”
In fact, as recently as two weeks ago, Gaspard and company, working off one of the more reliable tips they’ve received during the 15-month investigation, tracked down a man in Beaumont who had allegedly told a young woman in Port Arthur that he was in the car that shot and killed Allison. The young man was questioned, admitted that he said that to the woman, but that he wasn’t actually in the car and had made it up to win the girl over.
He agreed to a lie detector test and passed it with “flying colors” according to both Gaspard and Maj. Raymond Clark. So it’s back to the drawing board.
“This case is wide open,” Raymond Clark said, “I’m afraid this is ultimately going to be a confession case where someone is going to have to come in and confess to the murder because it’s weighing on them.”
Gaspard agrees that this has been a difficult case, but takes exception to the amount of work they’ve put into the case. He said they’re still waiting on ballistic evidence from the state crime lab, and they’re hopeful that it comes within the next few months. The Clark family doesn’t understand why it’s taken so long to get the information back, but the state crime lab processes evidence from throughout the state of Texas, so long waits are customary. Gaspard said taking the evidence to an independent lab is costly and the department can’t afford to take evidence from every case to a private lab, because if it did, the department would go broke.
There is also some forensic evidence that they’re looking at as well, so Gaspard said no angle hasn’t been looked at or entertained by investigators, and they’ll keep looking. Until then, Josh will remain a person of interest.
“It’s going to take evidence to rule him out,” Gaspard said, “or it’s going to take evidence to show that somebody else did it. Right now, we cannot prove who did or did not kill Allison.”
Josh said he’s fortunate to have a good job and good people to work with, not to mention a solid support system that has stood behind him throughout the ordeal. He and his daughters still live in the same house, and the Neil family, Gary and Sharon, have been instrumental in helping Josh. Both the Clarks and the Neils have maintained a tight bond. Ed and Melissa, who live near Tampa, Florida, have also taken care of the girls, Cadence, now 4, and Makayla, now 2.
“They’re typical two and four year-olds,” Josh says proudly. “Little sister repeats everything big sister does.”
He says Cadence, who was only two at the time of her mother’s murder, remembers a little bit, and has told Josh, “I miss my mommy, I wish she’d come back.”
Josh has dabbled in some counseling, and that’s helped, but insurance snafus have prevented him from going in a while. He doesn’t maintain much of a social life, but he has started to venture out more and friends from work have encouraged him to get out more, which he says has helped.
There are still subtle reminders of Allison in their house, specifically in the family’s bathroom where Josh says he can’t bring himself to remove her body soap or razor from the shower.
“I just can’t take it down,” he said.
Her jacket is still hanging by the front door and her clothes are still in her dresser drawers.
As for whether or not the Clarks think the case will be solved, they’re not holding their breath.
“I’ve lost all confidence in the detectives,” says Josh, shaking his head.
“This isn’t going to get solved by the detectives, too much time has passed,” says Ed, “this will get solved by a snitch in jail trying get a lower sentence.”
Josh suggests another possibility - “Or by someone with a guilty conscience.”