“Cold cases” can be the most difficult part of the job for a detective.
All investigative leads, witnesses, evidence and information have been looked into exhaustively.
After that happens, without new or expanded information, an unanticipated DNA match, an anonymous tip from the public or even a lucky “break” from a fresh look by different detectives, investigators often have to wait for years while the victims’ loved ones languish.
However, not all of the Santa Clarita Valley’s “unsolved” cases have left the victim’s loved ones without any sense of closure. One family surviving the unsolved murder of a loved one recently learned of the suspected killer’s death.
Bud Taylor, whose daughter LaWana Clary was bludgeoned to death in her Castaic home 12 years ago, found peace this past year knowing the prime suspect in her death is dead. Speaking from his home in the Midwest, Taylor said Tuesday justice was meted out Oct. 25, 2017, when Clary’s husband, David Wayne Clary, died.
“He was the one and only suspect,” Taylor said.
“I hate to point the fingers, but I can’t think of any other suspect. I believe he’s guilty,” he said of his deceased former son-in-law.
David Wayne Clary left Castaic for Oregon shortly after his wife’s body was found April 5, 2007.
Taylor learned Clary had moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, about a month before Clary’s death after undergoing surgery.
News of David Wayne Clary’s death came to the Taylor family’s attention after they had already “closed the book,” on the matter, Bud Taylor said.
“I still had the thought every now and then that one day, maybe, they would make an arrest. But I wasn’t holding my breath,” he said. “Well, now, it’s been taken care of — you don’t get away with the crime.”
Buried in SCV
LaWana Jayne Clary was buried on a stretch of grassy hillside at Eternal Valley Memorial Park and Mortuary.
For years, there was no gravestone or plaque to mark the grave.
The plot was owned by Clary’s widowed husband, David Wayne Clary. The Taylor family was unable to erect a plaque in LaWana Clary’s honor without his authorization.
Since April 5, 2007, when the 50-year-old LaWana’s body was found on a blood-soaked bed in her Castaic home, relations between the two families chilled.
Efforts made by The Signal in 2012 to reach David Clary by phone at his new home in Portland, Oregon, proved unsuccessful.
At the time, in 2012, among those wishing David Clary would return to the Santa Clarita Valley were homicide detectives, who still considered him their “sole person of interest” in the case.
Lie detector test
David Wayne Clary took a lie detector test to prove he was innocent.
Clary also cooperated with detectives the night of the murder, talked to them at the local sheriff’s station and provided a statement, homicide detectives confirmed.
Two years after LaWana Clary’s body was found with her skull crushed by blunt force, Clary’s attorney Richard Moss told The Signal that David Clary said he did not kill his wife, adding at the time: “It’s almost a knee-jerk reaction that the husband always did it.”
Homicide detectives Rich Lopez and Sgt. Robert Martindale of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, however, had problems with the lie-detector test taken by Clary six days after his wife’s murder.
The main problem?
Detectives were not present when the polygraph was administered and they have no idea what questions were asked of Clary.
“If we had done a polygraph test as the one they did, we would be laughed out of any court,” Lopez said in 2012. “Our polygraph tests are videotaped; theirs wasn’t even recorded with audio.”
Detectives wanted Clary to take a polygraph test they administered, so they could eliminate him as a suspect.
“I would like the husband to come down and take another polygraph test,” Lopez said Thursday. “It’s been five years. Come on. If you didn’t do it, sit down with our polygrapher.”
Clary refused to take a lie-detector test administered by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Lopez told The Signal in 2010.
As for Clary’s statement, Lopez said Wednesday: “He gave an initial statement, lawyered up and has never talked to us again.”
David and LaWana Clary were married in the early 1990s.
She graduated from Hart High School in 1974, attended Cal State Northridge, where she learned to be a special education teacher and landed a teaching job at Saugus High School, then one at Valencia High School.
He was a longtime resident of Newhall, worked in computers and dabbled in writing science fiction. He wrote a book called “The Deathful Place.”
They had a home in Castaic, where they lived with two dogs and raised a foster child — a girl born in 1989 whose drug-addicted mother died in a traffic accident on Christmas Day. She proved challenging, according to friends and coworkers of the murdered woman who were interviewed in 2012.
LaWana Clary was described by coworkers and students as a loving teacher and a devoted friend.
On April 5, 2007, David Clary left their home for work about 7 a.m., he told detectives. His wife was alive when he left, he said.
About 9:30 a.m., Barbara Frieling phoned LaWana Clary on her cellphone. But instead of reaching her friend and coworker, she spoke to a man identifying himself as David Clary.
About 5:15 p.m., David Clary, according to his statement, returned home and found his wife dead on their bed, lying on her right side, her skull fractured.
Dr. Solomon L. Riley Jr., who conducted the autopsy April 9, 2007, listed blunt force injuries to the left side of her skull as the cause of death.
In a preprinted section of his medical report that asks, “If other than natural causes, how did injury occur?” Riley wrote: “Battered by another.”
No weapon found
But no weapon was found at the house and no weapon recovered since, Lopez said in 2012.
Detectives looked for an implement similar to a baseball bat, golf club or walking stick.
The killer struck Clary on the upper left side of her head, leaving a laceration 1.75 inches long and almost a half-inch deep, according to the coroner’s report.
The blow caved her head in and was described by Riley as a “skull depression” measuring 2.5 inches by 3.25 inches.
Riley observed other “underlying multiple fractures” linked to the “skull depression.”
A bruise he noted on the back of Clary’s left hand is consistent with injuries expected for someone raising his or her hand in self-defense.
Blood was splattered across the bedroom wall and ceiling above the dead woman’s head, but coroner’s Investigator Jerry McKibben concluded there was no sign of a struggle, robbery or forced entry to the house, and no blood was found elsewhere in the house.
Within a day, the murder scene was released and detectives, through interviews, began eliminating people from their list of suspects, as is routinely done.
“There was a gardener at the house,” Lopez said. “We’ve already interviewed him and eliminated him as a suspect.”
Detectives said David Clary suggested they look into the possibility the couple’s foster child met with drug dealers in Fresno and stopped at the house in Castaic on their journey down Interstate 5.
“We were unable to substantiate any of that story,” Lopez said. “We also interviewed the (foster child).”
“The first person to include or eliminate in a (woman’s) murder is the husband or boyfriend,” Lopez said.
The one they were still trying to eliminate as a suspect in 2012 was David Clary.
On Oct. 25, 2017, all investigators, including the victim’s family, stopped looking.
On Twitter @jamesarthurholt