The strange sight
of a 47-year-old handcuffed man surrounded by police walking through the
woods while wearing a woman's wig must have puzzled many Cape Cod
residents on the morning of April 9, 2000.
The man, Hadden Clark, a
cross-dressing cannibal killer convicted in Maryland of two murders, was
looking for the graves of two women he claimed to have buried nearly two
decades ago. The woods, located in the town of Wellfleet, were part of a
7.3-acre property once owned by his grandfather, Silas Clark. Though
Clark grew up in Pennsylvania, the alleged serial killer spent his
summers in Wellfleet where he worked in restaurants.
Clark also met with
authorities in Meriden, Connecticut, where he claims to have buried
another body around 1980 in a family property owned by his maternal
grandfather Maynard Scranton.
Maryland prison authorities Clark told a fellow inmate whom he believes
is Jesus Christ that he killed as many as a dozen women and girls along
the Eastern Seaboard between the mid-70s and 1993, the year he was
Investigators in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and
Pennsylvania are now trying to determine if his claims are true or just
another figment of his psychologically unstable imagination. "It
has not been easy," said the Cape and Islands Assistant District
Attorney Michael O'Keefe. "It has been more than two decades since
the killings, the topography has changed, and Clark is an individual
with a number of difficulties who has been in and out of
Clark suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, which was
diagnosed in 1985 when he was discharged from the Navy where he served
as a cook. "He's been hot and cold," an officer associated
with the search told the Washington Post. "Sometimes he's truthful.
Sometimes he leads you on a wild-goose chase."
Earlier this year
Clark made a three-day visit to Cape Cod to lead another search of the
Wellfleet property, but frigid conditions and a snowstorm forced
investigators to reschedule. On the same trip he stopped at the West
Mountain area in Connecticut where he refused to cooperate with
authorities until they procured for him women's clothing. Agents
complied and bought a skirt, panties and a bra at a nearby K-Mart.
Though he complained that the skirt was the wrong size, he kept the
panties and bra.
In both the January and April trips Clark was
accompanied by the unidentified bearded prisoner who he thinks is Jesus.
Authorities justified the Jesus-look-alike tagging along because the
inmate allegedly is the only person who can calm Clark down during his
frequent psychotic breakdowns.
currently serving a 60-year sentence in Montgomery County, Maryland, for
the slayings of 6-year-old Michele Dorr and 23-year-old Laura
Houghteling. Showing a penchant for sending police on treasure hunts,
last December he led police to a bucket with 230 pieces of women's
jewelry buried in the Cape Cod property. One of the pieces was Laura
Houghteling's high school ring. Clark told his inmate friend that the
discovered jewelry was a collection of "trophies" from a
two-decade long killing spree.
Police said they
probably would have dismissed Clark's latest prison confession if Clark
had not led police to Michele Dorr's remains, who had been missing since
1986. Last October, after seven years of denying any involvement in her
disappearance, Clark pleaded guilty to her murder once the Jesus-like
inmate asked him to confess.
Her skeletal remains, which authorities had
previously searched for in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and throughout
Maryland, was found in a shallow grave covered by an abandoned mattress
five minutes away from her home in Silver Spring.
In 1993 Clark was
convicted of the murder of Laura Houghteling. Laura, a Harvard graduate,
disappeared from her home in Bethesda on October 1992. Clark became a
person of interest in the case when police discovered he had a history
of mental problems and had occasionally done gardening for her family.
Clark was arrested a month after Laura's dissapearence after police
found his bloody fingerprint in one of Laura's pillowcases. Hoping to
find her body, police set out in one of several unsuccessful searches in
central New Jersey after Clark suggested he buried 'them' in a state
where he had lived as a child.
By June 1993 Clark pleaded guilty to
second-degree murder in the death of Laura and led police to her body in
a shallow grave not far from where he abducted her.
statements he made while in custody for Laura's murder, Clark also
became the prime suspect in the disappearance of Michele Dorr. Little
Michele was last seen May 31, 1986, leaving her father's kitchen in a
pink ruffled bathing suit heading to a turtle-shaped plastic pool in
their back yard. At the time Clark was living in the basement of his
brother's house, merely two doors from Michele's father's home.
Following her disappearance Carl Dorr, her father, snapped under police
pressure and confessed to the killing. He later recanted saying that he
was going through a nasty divorce with Michele's mother and when his
daughter went missing he had a nervous breakdown. However the father
remained the prime suspect in the case until Clark was charged with
Laura Houghteling's murder.
authorities were able to pin Michele's death on Clark by using a
Mitochondrial DNA test, a technique developed by the army to identify
the remains of M.I.A. soldiers brought back from Southeast Asia. MtDNA
only passes from mothers to their children. The test, which is
considered less conclusive than nuclear DNA testing, is used only when
nuclear DNA is limited or old. Maryland authorities had a private
laboratory match bloodstains from the floorboards of Clark's home after
he left his brother's house with DNA samples from Michele's mother.
Clark later told an inmate that he stabbed Michele to death when he
found her in his niece's bedroom waiting for her little playmate. He
then threw her in a duffel bag and took her to his new home where he ate
some of her remains before burying her. He also confessed to eating and
torturing other women and girls.
Based on Clark's
claims, the FBI opened several case files on unsolved child murders in
Connecticut. Though he was a suspect in at least four cases around New
Haven authorities have now focused their attention on another
incarcerated serial killer, Harold Meade, who operated in the general
area at the time of the unsolved killings. Meade, who is serving a life
sentence for the bludgeoning deaths of three mentally retarded people in
New Haven in 1970, denied killing anyone but the three murders he has
been charged with. To prove his point he offered to give a DNA sample
and asked for a polygraph test.
As for Clark,
authorities are not quite sure if he is bluffing and taking them for a
ride or if he is the serial killer he claims to be. That is, of course,
until the Jesus-like convict convinces him to shut up or unearth more
Hadden Irving Clark (April, 1951) is an
American impostor, murderer, and cannibal.
Clark's family was affluent but dysfunctional; his
parents were both alcoholics who physically and emotionally abused their
four children, and his two brothers were both arrested as adults for
murder and domestic violence, respectively.
Clark's mother would dress him in girl's clothes when
she was drunk, and as a result he grew to identify himself as a woman
and would often wear women's clothes. He exhibited sadistic tendencies
from a young age, delighting in torturing animals and bullying other
As an adult, he trained as a chef at the Culinary
Institute of America and worked in upmarket hotels, restaurants and even
cruise liners. However, his mental illness often led him to being sacked
and often got back by thefts and sabotage. He later drifted through a
series of menial jobs and a stint in the Navy, which ended when he was
discharged after being diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. He
eventually settled in Maryland, where he was often homeless.
While Clark later claimed to have begun killing as a
teenager, his first documented victim was his six-year-old neighbor,
Michelle Dorr, whom he killed and cannibalized in May 1986. Clark was
not considered a suspect at the time, however, as police initially
suspected the girl's father.
In 1992, he murdered Laura Houghteling, a young woman
whose mother had given him a part-time gardening job. The local police,
who had begun to suspect him for Michelle Dorr's murder, investigated
him and arrested him within days.
Trial and Imprisonment
He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder the
following year and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. In 1999, he was
convicted of murdering Michelle Dorr after other prisoners testified
that he had bragged about committing the crime. Another 30 years were
added onto his sentence, plus 10 more for a past robbery charge, meaning
that Clark is effectively serving life in prison.
Cross-dressing Serial Killer
Hadden Clark came
from a prominent family. His grandfather served as mayor of White
Plains, New York. His father had an MBA and PhD in chemistry and helped
invent clear clinging plastic wrap and fire-retardant carpeting.
Hadden was the
second child, his parents had wanted a girl. His mother would often
dress him in girl’s clothing. His mother would also address him as
Kristen when she was drunk.
Hadden enrolled at
the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, a two-year chef’s school
in Hyde Park. After graduation, Hadden had his pick of jobs but he was
never able to keep a job long due to his strange behavior.
One of his jobs was
in Provincetown on Cape Cod. He would later confess to killing several
women during this time and drinking their blood. He buried one of the
women under a sand dune after chopping off her hands at the wrists. He
used her fingers as bait for fishing.
Hadden would later
join the Navy as a deck cook. He would be given a medical discharge,
diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic.
In February of 1989,
Hadden Clark dressed up as a woman and visited several churches. While
church members attended choir practice, Hadden stole their purses and
coats. When the cops pulled him over and asked to go in the trunk,
Hadden screamed, “No, No!” you can’t go in my trunk.” They opened the
trunk and saw the coats and purses, they asked Hadden if he owned them.
Hadden said yes, “I’m a woman.” The cops also found women wigs,
dresses and cash. They arrested Hadden, he stayed in jail for 45 days.
In 1986, six-year
old Michelle Dorr was last seen leaving her father’s kitchen, headed to
a plastic pool in the backyard.
In 1993, Hadden
Clark dressed up in women’s clothes, broke into Laura Houghteling’s
apartment, Hadden abducted her and killed her. Hadden made a crucial
mistake, he left a bloody fingerprint in one of Laura’s pillowcases.
Police arrested him, in custody, he confessed to several murders of
women and girls along the Eastern Seaboard between the mid-70’s and
1993. Hadden also confessed to killing Michelle Dorr. He told the
police, he stabbed the six-year old to death, threw her in a duffel bag
and took her to his home where he ate some of her remains before burying
When the police
asked him, why did you kill these women, he replied, I thought if I
drunk the blood of women, it would transform me into a woman, I wanted
to become the women and girls I killed.
In 2000, Clark
agreed to cooperate with the police by showing them the graves of his
victims. His one request, they had to purchase women’s clothing before
he cooperated with the search. The agents went to K-Mart and purchased,
a skirt, panties, a wig and a bra. He was a strange sight, a 47-year old
handcuffed man wearing a woman’s wig and clothing. No graves were
unearthed but he did lead the police to a bucket with 230 pieces of
women’s jewelry. One of the pieces was Laura Houghteling’s high school
ring. These were his trophies.
Hadden is serving a
60-year sentence in Maryland for the slayings of Michelle Dorr and Laura
Regarding the other
murders, authorities aren’t sure if he is bluffing or if he is the
serial killer he claims to be.
* In 1984, after a
night of drinking and drugs, Hadden Clark’s brother Bradfield would
murder his date, Patricia Mak. He banged her head against a brick wall
and strangled her. He cut her body into 11 pieces in the bathtub,
cooked her breasts on the barbecue grill and ate them. He stuffed the
remaining body parts into plastic bags. He later grew remorseful and
confessed to the police. He is currently serving time in prison.
Source: "Born Evil"
by Adrian Havill
Snow Freezes Quest for Serial
Admitted Killer Says He Buried
Victims in Cape Cod
By Amy Worden - The Washington Times
Jan. 19, 2000
WELLFLEET, Mass. (APBnews.com) --
Last week, investigators appeared close to finding evidence in the sandy
soil of Cape Cod that a man already convicted of two murders is a serial
After years of silence, Hadden
Clark, a twice-convicted murderer, led investigators to the body of
6-year-old Michele Dorr, the second of his known victims. He also told
investigators he had disposed of bodies of several young women in
Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Acting on the new information and
sensing Clark was ready to tell more, detectives quickly hustled him
from his Maryland prison cell north to Cape Cod in the hope that he
could lead them to burial sites on seashore property that once belonged
to his family.
Then a snowstorm froze the quest
for clues. Southeastern Massachusetts was hit with its first major
snowfall in almost a year and the latest search for victims of the
47-year-old handyman was aborted.
"It was rather frustrating
-- the day he arrived in New England, weather arrived with him -- snow,
subfreezing temperatures, howling winds," said Massachusetts State
Police Sgt. James Plath.
Clark was brought back to
Maryland Monday. But he has told the truth before, which is why
investigators say they are planning to return to the site, with or
Investigators told APBnews.com
today that they believe the man serving a 60-year prison sentence for
killing Michele and a 23-year-old Maryland woman killed others and
buried their bodies in Wellfleet -- they just don't know the number of
victims or their names.
11 killings in six states?
"He has given us some
statements that lead us to believe people are buried at the property,
but we haven't been able to corroborate which individuals they
are," said Plath. "He has given us the first name of one
individual and the first and last name of another individual."
But he said police only have the
phonetic spellings of the names, so they have been unable to match them
with any specific missing persons.
Authorities said Clark, a
transient who supported himself with odd jobs, may have been in involved
in as many as 11 killings in six states.
So far, the new leads have run
cold. But police said that, given Clark's violent history and his track
record of leading investigators to his victims' bodies, they will
continue to pursue any leads that might connect him with other crimes in
New England and the Middle Atlantic states.
Plath would not comment on a
published report quoting unnamed investigators as saying Clark tortured
and cannibalized his victims.
"That is not the focus of
our investigation; the focus of our investigation is to locate
victims," he said.
Search will resume with thaw
The severe winter weather may
have halted the dig at the 7.4-acre property where Clark spent summers
as a boy with his family, but investigators said the search would
continue once the cold snap breaks.
"We need a break in the
weather," said Plath. "It could be next month or March. We
need three or four days and conditions that the [cadaver] dogs can work
Clark was convicted of killing
Michele, who was abducted from her father's back yard in a suburban
Washington neighborhood, and 23-year-old Laura Houghteling, a Harvard
University graduate who disappeared from her home in nearby Bethesda,
Md., in 1992.
A funeral was held for Michele
Saturday, 10 days after Clark led police to her body. Seven years ago,
he helped police find Houghteling's body, which was found buried in
Victim's jewelry in Wellfleet
After investigators found some of
Houghteling's jewelry on the Wellfleet property in December and
Michele's body was found in a shallow grave in a park in Silver Spring,
Md., investigators from Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont,
Connecticut and Pennsylvania expressed interest in interviewing Clark.
Sunday, detectives from
Connecticut, accompanied by Clark, went to an area where he said he had
killed someone more than two decades ago, but no evidence was found.
Clark also said he abducted two
women in Vermont, killed them and buried them on his family's Wellfleet
property, but Vermont investigators have found no connection to any
unsolved crimes there.
"All we have is a thing
about his claiming he killed a couple of people. We have nothing to
match him to any bodies he said he killed," said Vermont State
Police Lt. Bruce Lang.
A Rhode Island connection?
The Rhode Island State Police
said they are exploring possible links Clark may have had to the Block
Island and Warwick areas of the state, but have no connection between
Clark and any specific crimes.
"There is no indication he
has committed any crime in the state of Rhode Island," said Rhode
Island State Police Maj. Steven Pare.
Police said the cadaver dogs
would return and the digging resume at the first opportunity.
"Based on the fact that he
provided information about the Maryland homicides and brought police to
the grave sites and the December search in Wellfleet, it would be the
only responsible thing to do," said Plath. "We have covered
parts of the compound over six years but still have areas of interest
that haven't been searched before."
Cold Weather on Cape Cod Halts
Quest for Bodies
Child Killer Says Granddad's
Place Was Burial Ground
By Amy Worden - APBnews.com
Jan. 17, 2000
WELLFLEET, Mass. -- Snow and single-digit temperatures have temporarily halted the search
for more victims of a man convicted in two Maryland murders who has told
police he killed other people in other states.
Hadden Clark, 47, is serving 70
years for the murders of 6-year-old Michele Dorr and 23-year-old Laura
Houghteling. He was brought to Cape Cod last week after telling
investigators he had buried other victims on property belonging to his
In both, cases Clark led police
to the remains of his victims -- both buried near their homes in
suburban Washington. Police found Dorr's body last week in a shallow
grave in a Silver Spring, Md., park, where it was buried after her
disappearance in 1986.
Clark reportedly told
investigators he buried some of his victims here on bucolic Cape Cod,
even drawing maps of the alleged grave sites.
'Nothing is going on in
But back-to-back snowstorms have
hampered the current search of the 7-acre property adjacent to a
national park. Police have been returning periodically since Clark's
arrest seven years ago.
"Nothing is going on in
Wellfleet today," said Police Chief Richard Rosenthal.
With temperatures in the single
digits and several inches of snow on the ground, he does not expect the
search to resume in the near future.
"They're using cadaver
recovery dogs, and the odor of flesh in cold weather is hard to detect.
It's also hard to dig in freezing ground," said Rosenthal.
Two rings found in December
A search Dec. 15 turned up no
human remains, but investigators found a bucket containing two rings
belonging to Houghteling, according to law enforcement sources.
Meanwhile, Connecticut State
Police spent about five hours with Clark on Sunday in an unsuccessful
effort to a find a woman he said he had buried there more than two
"The information he offered
us was not fruitful or relevant to any crime," said Lt. Ralph
Carpenter of the Connecticut State Police. Clark had told police he
killed a woman in Connecticut in the late 1970s and buried her there.
Investigators brought him to the
area -- which they would not reveal -- Sunday and questioned him
extensively, but found nothing, police said.
"We were prepared to
dig," said Carpenter. "Nothing turned up related to any
specific unsolved crimes. As of now, we haven't linked him to any case
A transient serial killer
Federal, state and local police
are trying to separate fact from fiction -- a process they say could
take a long time.
"We're dealing with a serial
killer here. We don't know how many people he killed," said
Rosenthal. "The fact is, he was a transient and moved around. How
much is truth and how much of it's not? He was a very active guy for
quite a long period of time. They have to see exactly what he's been up
Rosenthal said he did not know
where Clark was taken after being questioned in Connecticut, but
confirmed he was not brought back to Cape Cod or Massachusetts. Neither
Maryland investigators nor the Massachusetts State Police could be
reached for comment today.
Child Killer Aids Police in
Cape Cod Property May Hold
Evidence of More Crimes
Jan. 14, 2000
WELLFLEET, Mass. (AP) -- A
convicted murderer who twice led authorities to the bodies of his
victims traveled from his Maryland prison Thursday to lead authorities
on a search of property his family once owned on Cape Cod.
Hadden I. Clark, 47, has been
sentenced to 70 years in prison for murdering 6-year-old Michele Lee
Dorr, of Silver Spring, Md., and 23-year-old Laura Houghteling, of
Bethesda, Md., and for an unrelated theft.
Michele disappeared in 1986, but
her body was not found until last week, when Clark led authorities to a
shallow grave in a suburban Washington park.
Authorities declined to say
specifically what they were looking for Thursday in Wellfleet, where
Clark's grandfather once lived. Barnstable County District Attorney
Philip Rollins said investigators were looking for any evidence that a
crime had been committed.
Woman remembers Clark,
Mike Garvey, a police lieutenant
from Montgomery County, Md., said they had received "first names
... and circumstances" that led to the search. WRC-TV in Washington
reported that authorities planned to search for bodies.
Clark accompanied FBI agents,
state and local police from Wellfleet and Montgomery County on a search
of the seven-acre property on Pamet Point Road, where he played as a
boy. Authorities kept reporters and television cameras at bay.
Gloria Watts, who has lived on
the street for 25 years, said she remembered Clark and his grandfather.
"Mr. Clark used to have a
lovely garden," Watts said. "Hadden Clark and his brother
played there. They were the grandchildren."
Reburied girl's body
This was not the first grim
search in Wellfleet. Several years ago, investigators looked for
Michele's body, without success.
During the trial for the girl's
murder, prosecutors said Clark initially buried the body in Wellfleet
and then returned in 1992 and removed the remains.
Massachusetts state police Sgt.
James Plath said authorities returned Clark to Wellfleet because he had
twice before led them to the buried bodies of his victims.
Snow hampered search efforts
The bodies of both Michele and
Houghteling were found buried in Maryland, where Clark lived.
The Barnstable County District
Attorney's Office declined to say if Thursday's search turned up any
clues, or if the search would continue today.
Several inches of snow fell on
the Cape Thursday, hampering efforts. Authorities said Clark would be
held overnight in a Massachusetts prison that they did not name.
Body in Park Believed to Be
Man Already Convicted of 1986
Jan. 7, 2000
SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) -- Police
acting on a tip have uncovered remains believed to be that of a
6-year-old girl who vanished more than 13 years ago.
The remains were found buried in
a park about five miles from the home of Michele Dorr, who over the
years has been the subject of searches as far away as Massachusetts and
Montgomery County Police Chief
Charles Moose told reporters at the scene that investigators had "a
lot of strong indicators" they had found Michele's remains.
The clothing the girl was
believed to have been wearing when she disappeared also was recovered
from the site in North Paint Branch Stream Valley Park, Moose said.
'Some closure' for police
"It is a situation that for
us brings some closure," said Moose, adding that the girl's family
had been notified.
Earlier, police said they were
led to the scene by confidential information, but would not confirm
whether Hadden Clark, 47, who was convicted in October of killing the
girl, tipped police.
Police spokesman Lt. Mike Garvey
said police dogs searched a one-mile area for two days and gave officers
an "alert" at a site, where police began digging Thursday.
The remains were buried no more
than 18 inches deep on a ridge.
Dental records to be used for ID
The medical examiner's office
will remove the remains and they will be taken to Baltimore for positive
identification based on dental records. The medical examiner's office
also will attempt to determine a cause of death, police said.
Michele was last seen playing in
the back yard of her father's home in the Washington suburb of Silver
Spring May 31, 1986.
Prosecutors said the girl went to
the home of a playmate, a niece of Clark's who lived near her, but Clark
was the only one at the house. Prosecutors said Clark stabbed her to
death, cleaned up as much of the blood as he could and then disposed of
Clark was sentenced to 30 years
in prison for Michele's death. He will not begin serving that sentence
until he completes two other sentences, totaling 40 years, for a theft
charge and for the 1992 murder of Laura Houghteling, 23.
Man Gets 30 Years for Murdering
Maryland 6-Year-Old's Body Was
Oct. 20, 1999
ROCKVILLE, Md. (AP) -- A Maryland
man was sentenced to 30 years in prison today for the murder 13 years
ago of a young girl whose body has never been found.
Six-year-old Michele Dorr was
last seen outside her father's Silver Spring home May 31, 1986. Police
believe she walked to a nearby home to play with a 5-year-old friend.
Prosecutors contended during the
trial that Hadden Clark encountered the girl playing at his brother's
house and slashed her to death. Clark, 47, was convicted Monday of
The prosecutors said Clark buried
the girl's body in a Cape Cod, Mass., cemetery, then dug it up on
Halloween in 1992. But they have been unable to find it, despite years
of questioning people and searching sites up the East Coast to Rhode
Island and Massachusetts.
Little hope they'll find body
Clark pleaded guilty in 1993 to
the murder of a 23-year-old Bethesda woman and is serving a 30-year
sentence for that.
Maryland District Court Judge
Michael D. Mason cited "the denial of the ability of the parents to
bury the child" as a factor in imposing a sentence that will not
begin until Clark completes the previous 30-year term and a separate
10-year sentence for a theft charge tried earlier this year.
Mason urged Clark to tell where
the little girl was buried, but prosecutors and family members expressed
little hope that would occur.
The defendant did not testify
during the trial and made no statement today.
"He went through great pains
to cover it up, and has no remorse," said Carl Dorr, Michele's
'I might have done something to
Police said that during
questioning Clark had told them, "I blacked out, and I might have
done something to her."
Defense attorneys cited their
unsuccessful effort to suppress a videotape of the police interview with
Clark as one of several possible grounds for appeal. During the
four-hour tape, a sometimes-nervous Clark said he suffered frequent
blackouts. He said he slept in the Cape Cod cemetery near his father's
grave on Halloween 1992.
Hadden Clark: Cannibal, Cross Dresser, Serial
by Adrian Havill
Little Girl Lost
It seemed almost as hot as hell itself on the
afternoon of May 31, 1986. But a blast of summer heat was what many
people welcomed on a weekend as summer began. Not Hadden Clark. Hadden,
35, stood outside of his brother Geoffrey’s empty home, sweating in the
92-degree heat. He was a wiry, six-feet-two inches tall who leaned
against his Datsun pickup truck feeling sorry for himself and getting
angrier by the minute as the temperature soared. The house was eerily
quiet. Everyone who lived there was gone--out and having fun. Geoffrey
Clark, the only brother he had who wasn’t in prison, had deserted him.
Things were not going well for Hadden. He had been
asked to vacate the room he rented at Geoff’s house because he had
masturbated in front of his young children. There were nephews and a
niece. A few months before that, he had been arrested for shoplifting
women’s underwear at a local department store. Hadden didn’t steal the
bra and panties to give to a girlfriend. He stole them to wear himself.
“I like my ladies’ clothing,” he once told his mother.
“Don’t try and change me.”
Less than a year before he had been bounced from the
Navy. His discharge was a medical one--the doctors had diagnosed him as
a paranoid schizophrenic. Hadden wasn’t taking the medicine they
prescribed for him either. He just didn’t care.
Then, just a week ago, his six-year-old niece, Eliza,
had called him a retard. He wanted to kill her for that remark. It
wouldn’t have been the first time he had murdered someone who “dissed”
So Hadden stood there, seething in the hot sun, about
to go into his brother’s residence on Sudley Road in Silver Spring,
Maryland to pick up the last box of his belongings. As he began to move
towards the house, a little girl walked up to him. What was her name? He
had seen her around the neighborhood several times.
Was it Kelly? Shelly? Michele? That was it, Michele.
The tyke with the bangs and the freckles over the bridge of her nose was
Eliza’s weekend friend, the daughter of a divorced man down the street
who had custody of her on weekends. Michele was wearing a pink ruffled
swimsuit that was still wet from playing in a plastic backyard pool.
It was then that Hadden Clark knew how to get back at
his niece for calling him a retard. Nobody who crossed him got away with
stuff like that for long.
“She’s in the house. Upstairs in her room playing
with dolls. You can go inside if you like.”
He watched Michele wander into the house and heard
her steps as she walked up the stairs of his brother’s silent home. When
she was out of sight, he walked around to the back of his truck and
pulled a toolbox towards him. Hadden made his living as a chef and
inside the metal box were the tools of his trade--every kind of knife a
commercial restaurant would ever need. There were deboning knives,
carving knives, and fish filleting knives with serrated blades, meat
cleavers, and more. Each had been honed to its maximum degree of
sharpness. Hadden selected a 12-inch long chef’s knife and casually
strolled into the house and up the stairs of his brother’s house.
Life hadn’t treated Michele’s father, Carl Dorr, well.
His two college degrees--one in economics, the other in psychology--hadn’t
done much for him and by the mid-1980s he had settled into a series of
jobs where he spray painted cars on commission. His personal life was
worse. He had married Michele’s mother, Dorothy, in 1978, but after
their daughter was born, the marriage not only fell apart but evolved
into a brutal battle. There were times when Carl would slap his wife
around in front of Michele with the emotional toll falling on Michele.
The stress made the little girl stutter and grind her teeth at night.
“She had seen too much for a six-year old,” Dorothy
would tell The Washington Post.
Once, on Valentine’s Day of 1976, Carl had shown up
at his estranged wife’s house and refused to leave. He told her if there
was a divorce hearing he would lie under oath, say she was an adulteress,
an unfit mother, and if he lost he would kidnap Michele at the school
bus stop. Then, according to Dorothy, he threw her against the wall and
beat her, causing cuts and bruises.
Though both were setting up their daughter for an
adulthood that would require weekly visits to a psychiatrist, each loved
the little girl. Carl looked forward to the weekends with his daughter
and that certainly was the case the last two days of May 1986 when he
picked up Michele from her mother. They had dinner at McDonald’s, he
bought her a toy at the 7-11, rented her a kid’s movie from a video
store, and on that hot Saturday he filled the plastic swimming pool at
noon, promising to take her to a big neighborhood pool at four that
afternoon. She showed off for him for a few minutes and then Carl went
into the house to watch the Indianapolis 500 auto race.
Carl’s rented house was two doors down from Geoffrey
Clark’s home. And while he watched Rick Mears and Bobby Rahal average
171 miles per hour--a record-- he forgot to check on his little girl
outside. She soon grew bored playing alone and wandered down the street
looking for Eliza Clark. Minutes later, Hadden Clark was tip-toeing up
the stairs of the empty house after her, a knife in his hand that
appeared to be as big as his intended victim. He followed her into Eliza’s
Hadden threw the little girl to the floor and was on
her so fast she didn’t get a chance to scream. The first slash was a
backhand, from left to right across her chest; the second went back the
other way, almost like Zorro making the Z sign. She fell back in shock
and he straddled her, putting his free hand over her mouth. She
surprised him by biting his hand. That made him very angry and he
plunged the twelve-inch knife straight through her throat.
Blood was spurting all over the wooden floor of the
little bedroom. The room in the old house sloped and the blood sought
the lowest level.
Hadden didn’t know what to do first. Should he mop up
the blood and cover up what he had done or try to have sex with the dead
girl? He tried the sex part first but couldn’t make it work.
Hadden raced downstairs to the kitchen and got some
plastic trash bags. He ran out to his truck and got some rags and an old
Navy duffel bag. He was back upstairs in seconds. Hadden stuffed Michele
into a plastic bag and then inside the duffel bag. He fell to his knees,
mopping up the blood as if he was swabbing the deck on one of the
aircraft carriers he had served on. Everything that had blood on it was
stuffed into the trash sacks
His clean up looked pretty good to his eyes. Nothing
seemed out of place. Nobody would know what had just happened. Hadden
threw the body and the bags into the back of his truck. He had to be at
his chef’s job at the nearby Chevy Chase country club in 20 minutes.
Being late would be noticed.
The Prime Suspect
Carl Dorr looked into the back yard several times. He
didn’t see Michele. The pool was still, not a ripple. Still, he wasn’t
worried. Sudley Road in Silver Spring, Maryland was a safe suburban
street, three miles from the Washington, D.C. border. Nothing exciting
had ever happened in this leafy enclave. He had no doubt that his
daughter was down the street playing with her pal, Eliza Clark. He
stayed relaxed, paying a few bills while he finished watching the auto
race. Michele didn’t return.
Around 5:30 he wandered over to the Clark’s house.
Geoffrey Clark had returned home and was in the back barbecuing. His
children from his first marriage were there, as was his new girlfriend.
Eliza was part of the group. There was no Michele.
Geoff Clark said he hadn’t seen Michele all day. So
did his daughter Eliza. Perplexed, Carl walked to the end of the street
and saw nothing. The bewildered father began knocking on doors. Nothing.
Panic began to set in. He drove through the neighborhood again and then
pointed his car in the direction of the nearest police precinct. There,
he reported her missing.
The moment he did so, he became their prime suspect.
Hadden Clark finished his shift at the country club
and began driving, the body of the six-year old girl in the back of his
pickup truck, covered by a metal cap. He stopped off first at nearby
Bethesda Naval Hospital to get the cut on his hand dressed. The free
medical privileges were part of his benefits package he received when he
was discharged from the Navy. When he left the hospital, it was nearly
Hadden drove towards Baltimore on old Columbia Pike.
When he saw some woods he pulled over to the shoulder of the road and
stopped. He had a ready-made story. If the cops came by he would tell
them he had to pee and couldn’t wait.
Michele Dorr’s killer grabbed the duffel bag, a
flashlight, and a shovel from the back of the truck, stepped over a
guard rail, and stumbled down a ravine and into the woods. At the base
of a tree he dug a grave four feet long, digging until he hit clay. He
took the little girl from the duffel bag and began dropping her in. But
there was one more piece of business. He had to taste her. The flesh was
his prize, her death was his revenge. Afterwards, he covered her body
with parts of an old mattress he found nearby, and some leaves. He
climbed back up the incline and into his truck, driving back to his
newly rented room, five miles from his brother’s house.
Every rookie cop is told that when a child disappears
he is to look first in the direction of the parents or caregiver.
Statistics bear this out. It’s usually a 90% chance that either the
parents or the caregiver know what happened to the child.
“It’s page one in the handbook,” said Detective Mike
Garvey, the first cop to speak with Carl Dorr. And the more they looked
at Carl Dorr, the more he looked like their man. After all, hadn’t he
threatened his wife, saying he would abduct their daughter just three
months before? Hadn’t he and Dorothy been battling over the kid for
years? Wasn’t Carl the last to see her alive? They went right at him,
asking him to take a polygraph the very next day. When the polygraph
examiner, a local fire marshal, told them that Carl might know more
about Michele’s whereabouts than he was telling them, the cops thought
they had their man.
“It was good cop, bad cop,” Carl later said. “They
were right in my face, telling me I had failed the polygraph exam and
that it had been 24 hours and they knew she was dead. ‘We’re going to
find her,’ they said, ‘When we do, we’re coming to get you.’”
His estranged wife told the cops she thought he had
done it too. She gave them an extra motive. Her estranged husband was
trying to get out of paying her $400 a month in child support. Carl Dorr
was caught inside a nightmare. When he told the police that he loved his
daughter, they didn’t believe him. He took a second lie detector test
and passed easily. In an attempt to prove his innocence, he underwent
hypnosis and took sodium pentothal, the so-called truth serum. None of
this convinced the cops. But then Carl may have been his own worst enemy.
He snapped, and in a psychotic episode told a psychiatrist that he
had abducted and killed his daughter.
“I started hallucinating,” he recalled. “I couldn’t
take the pressure. My brain was soup.”
In his altered mental state he began to believe that
people on television shows were talking about him. He looked behind the
set and when he didn’t see anything, he thought the police were altering
The next day Carl got into his car and drove to his
father’s grave. He began talking to his father’s headstone. He thought
the headstone was speaking back. His mind was so gone that he began to
believe he was God’s only son.
“I believed that if I could find Michele I could
bring her back to life. And if was able to do that, then I must be Jesus,”
he said. He began calling himself the White Messiah.
The cops took all this to be a form of confession.
They had Michele’s father in for questioning again and again. It wasn’t
long before Carl Dorr was committed to a hospital for 72 hours of
psychiatric observation. As soon as he got out, he was hauled in for
In truth, Carl did have something to hide. Ashamed
that he had neglected his daughter that afternoon, he fudged the
timeline. The last time he had seen Michele was around noon of May 31st.
But he told the cops it was around 2:10 p.m. The time discrepancy was
about to give Hadden Clark a perfect alibi.
Detective Wayne Farrell would later recall cruising
Sudbury Road on the day after Michele Dorr vanished. He was grasping for
any straw and came upon Hadden Clark in the driveway of his brother’s
house, tinkering with his truck’s engine.
“Were you here yesterday?” the cop asked him.
“For about two or three minutes,” Hadden claimed.
Farrell told Mike Garvey about the encounter. He said
he had checked around and that Hadden Clark seemed to be the
neighborhood weirdo. Garvey said to bring him in. Farrell called Geoff
Clark and Geoff called Hadden and told him to be at the police precinct
the next morning. He was on time but Garvey let him cool his heels for
10 minutes before going to work on him.
Hadden appeared to have an airtight story. He said he
had punched his time clock at the country club where he worked at 2: 46
that afternoon. Garvey and Farrell did some figuring. If Carl Dorr said
he had seen his daughter at 2:10 then Hadden Clark couldn’t have found,
abducted or killed someone and then hid a body within 36 minutes. That
was nearly impossible. Still they weren’t about to let him walk out
without being questioned. They went soft on him at first, asking him
about the rabbits he had raised behind his brother’s house and his life
before moving in with his brother. They gradually began asking him about
the children in the neighborhood and Hadden opened up, complaining that
one of the little boys had once kicked him in the testicles while he
played with a group. He also confessed he had once playfully pinned a
little girl to the ground. Garvey jumped on the admission.
“Is that what you did with Michele?” He pulled out a
photo of the little girl and when he did Hadden began rocking back and
forth in his chair. Tears appeared in his eyes and he wouldn’t look at
“Is that what you did with Michele?” Garvey asked
again. Hadden mumbled an answer and then did something the cops weren’t
“I feel sick. Do you have a bathroom?” he asked. He
went into the police station bathroom and began vomiting loudly into the
toilet. The cops were right behind him.
“What did you do?” Garvey shouted into the stall.
“The parents need to know. Tell me what happened. They need to bury
their child. Was it an accident? Let’s talk about it.”
The suspect answered by retching loudly. As he
continued to vomit into the toilet, Garvey slid a photo of Michele Dorr
under the stall door.
“What did you do?”
Hadden made what was later viewed as a partial
“I don’t know,” he said between heaves. “I may have
done something. Sometimes I black out and do things I don’t remember.”
They were close, inches away from an arrest. But
Hadden seemed to get a second wind. He said he had worked that day and
mentioned the 2:46 punch-in again. Garvey checked his notes again. Clark
was crazy maybe, but you can’t kill or kidnap someone, then dump or hide
a body, and then get to work--which was nearly 10 miles away in that
kind of time frame. Carl Dorr had given his daughter’s killer the
perfect alibi while at the same time, directing the suspicion to himself
because of his behavior.
Hadden Clark would walk away to kill again. As for
Michele Dorr, it would be another 14 years until the mystery of her
death would be solved and her body found.
A Mayflower Murderer
Most serial killers come from the bottom half of
society. They grow up in poverty, and have few opportunities. Parents or
caregivers often abuse them. While Hadden Clark was abused, he was given
many advantages, the result of being the progeny of a distinguished
His mother, Flavia, boasted of being able to trace
her lineage back to the voyage of the Mayflower and had direct
descendants who were heroes in the Revolutionary War. Hadden’s
grandfather on his father’s side served as the elected Republican mayor
of White Plains, New York. His father--also named Hadden--would help
invent clear clinging plastic wrap and fire-retardant carpeting. The
Clark family was well off and well thought of by their neighbors.
Despite all this, the family had a deep secret. Both parents were
alcoholics whose drinking often led to physical battles that were
sometimes fought out in front of the children.
Hadden, born in April of 1951, was the second child.
His eldest brother, Bradfield, had been born a year earlier. Geoffrey
Clark, the youngest brother, arrived in 1955. The last child, Alison,
was born in 1959. She would run away from home as a teen and later break
ties with her parents, telling an investigator, “I never had a family.”
The Clark family bounced around Connecticut and New
Jersey as Hadden was growing up, rarely staying in any place for more
than a year. Hadden’s father, who had both an MBA and a PhD in chemistry,
never seemed satisfied with his employers, always searching for more
Bradfield was a handful from the start and became
involved with drugs as a teen. Though he would receive two university
degrees, and be highly thought of in the new world of computers, the
Clark genes would be his downfall. In 1984, during a night of drinking
and drugs, he would murder his date, a beautiful 29-year old woman named
After banging her head against a brick cinderblock and
strangling her, he would cut up her body into 11 pieces in his bathtub,
cook part of her breasts on his barbecue grill, eat them, and then stuff
the remaining body parts into plastic bags. Like Hadden, he intended to
bury the body, but grew remorseful, attempted suicide, and then called
the police. He received 15-years-to-life and is still serving time at
Pleasant Valley State Prison in California.
Geoff, the youngest brother, would have other
problems. After earning a degree in microbiology at Ohio State
University, he married a childhood sweetheart and the two made their way
to the Maryland suburbs of Washington where a position at the Food and
Drug Administration awaited. They settled into a quiet house on Sudbury
Road in Silver Spring and had three children before the marriage turned
ugly and divorce actions were filed. Marcia accused Geoff of physically
abusing her twice and he was convicted of one of the charges, earning a
If the three other Clark children had difficulties in
their lives, with Bradfield eventually committing the ultimate offense,
they paled alongside Hadden. He seemed to have been born evil and liked
to hurt people. Children usually ran the other way when he showed up and
those who dared cross him often found their family dog or cat deposited
on their doorstep, decapitated.
Once, when Geoff and Hadden were learning to ride
their bikes without hands, Hadden grabbed his handlebars and
deliberately rammed his brother. Geoff hit the sidewalk headfirst and
began bleeding profusely from the head. Hadden hurried home to tell his
“There’s been an accident,” he told her, but don’t
worry the bike’s okay.” He didn’t mention his brother’s injuries.
“My brother’s sense of reality was always a little
askew,” Geoff said, years later.
Flavia Clark at first blamed her son’s strange
behavior on a bad forceps delivery. Then she thought he had cerebral
palsy and took him to an expensive clinic. His father had no such
illusions. After a few drinks, he began to refer to his son as “the
retard.” Since Hadden was the second child, and the couple had wanted a
girl, his mother often dressed him in frilly girl’s clothing. A taste
for female clothing was implanted in him as was the name Kristen--his
mother addressed him by that name when she was drunk.
Yet Hadden did not test as mentally deficient. In
fact, he could appear to be a genius when it came to chess, a game that
required thinking and concentration. On the other hand, emotionally he
was a small child who lashed out physically when he was publicly
criticized. The only place where he felt a degree of normalcy was at his
grandparents’ retirement estate. After his term as mayor of White Plains,
his grandfather had purchased a dream house at the edge of a town called
Wellfleet on Cape Cod. Nobody called him a retard there and it became as
close to heaven on earth as Hadden Clark would find.
“The days we spent there were the most wonderful time
of Hadden’s life,” Geoff said once. “They were for all of us.”
Flavia Clark wanted her son to have a trade and so
she enrolled him at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, a two-year
chef’s school in Hyde Park, New York. There, he surprised everyone by
demonstrating a real talent for carving ice sculptures and figures from
tallow. His chef’s education was not without incidents. Hadden
retaliated against slights by urinating into vats of mashed potatoes.
Still, he passed enough courses to graduate from the cooking academy in
January of 1974. In a rare display of solidarity, Hadden’s entire family
showed up for the graduation ceremony.
The degree from a top-flight chef’s school enabled
Hadden Clark to pick and choose employers -- at first. But he was never
able to keep a job for more than a few months. His strange behavior,
like openly chugging beef blood in a restaurant’s kitchen, did not
endear him to fellow employees or employers. His first jobs were in
Provincetown on Cape Cod, where years later he would confess to killing
several women in the sand dunes nearby. On one such occasion, he claimed
to have murdered a young woman burying her nude under a sand dune after
first removing her hands at the wrists. Hadden told police he used her
fingers as experimental bait for surf fishing, a hobby he had become
proficient in while living on the Cape.
After becoming shunned by restaurant owners in the
beach towns of Massachusetts, Hadden Clark did a one-year stint on the
cruise ship S/S Norway. After that, there were jobs in Long
Island banquet halls, and a three-week assignment at the 1980 Olympics
in Lake Placid, New York. In all, Hadden Clark would hold 14 different
jobs between 1974 and 1982.
During that time his family disintegrated further.
His grandfather died and his grandmother, in poor health, entered a
nursing home. His parents divorced, with his father dying soon after
from cancer. Hadden, an unsuspected murderer many times over, entered
the U.S. Navy as a below deck cook. It was his last chance at a career.
But his shipmates didn’t understand a sailor who often wore frilly
ladies’ panties under his uniform. There were beatings. Once, he was
locked in a meat freezer for three hours. The Navy tried moving him to
new ships but there were incidents.
After a final beating where he
suffered a concussion from his head being banged against an aircraft
carrier’s deck, Hadden was given a medical discharge, diagnosed as a
paranoid schizophrenic. He soon showed up on his brother Geoff’s
doorstep, which resulted in the brutal killing of little six-year old
Michele Dorr, with the police believing that her father and not Hadden
Clark was their prime suspect.
Walking Time Bomb
Hadden Clark’s mental state deteriorated over the
next five years although his appearance and his behavior weren’t bad
enough to get him committed to an institution. He eschewed rented rooms
and began living under the cap of his pickup truck, often setting up
camp in woods just off an interstate highway. His days as a chef were
over. Nobody would hire him. He worked odd jobs as a minimum wage
gardener sent out by homeless groups and at night he would toil at fast
food shops. Hadden had plenty of money. Living alone in the woods cost
nothing. By 1990 he had saved nearly $40,000.
During those years there were plenty of warnings. The
legal system that had focused on Carl Dorr and not Hadden Clark
continued to look the other way.
In September of 1988, Hadden Clark visited his mother,
who was now living in Rhode Island. During his stay he began stealing
items from her house. Flavia caught him and screamed in anger.
“What are you doing, stealing from me?” she yelled.
Hadden knocked his mother down and began kicking her.
Then he jumped into his truck and tried to run her over. She jumped
aside just in time. The next day she charged her son with assault and
battery. Hadden got a year’s probation.
Flavia, devastated by Brad’s murder conviction and
Hadden’s assault, wanted nothing to do with her progeny anymore. She
wrote a letter to Hadden saying she was going to pretend he was dead
until he got some help from a veterans’ hospital. “Always remember that
your mother and father loved you,” she wrote. The word “loved,” written
in the past tense, did not go unnoticed.
In 1988, Hadden Clark was stopped for speeding.
Underneath the driver’s seat was a .38 caliber Astra handgun. The same
police department that had focused on Carl Dorr and not Michele Dorr’s
murderer let him go after he pled guilty to a destruction of property
charge that had occurred earlier in the year. He was able to walk away
with another suspended sentence and probation, a slap on the wrist that
now extended into two states.
The destruction of property charge was particularly
egregious and showed his temper was far from under control. In his last
rental before going to live inside his truck in the woods, Hadden was
bounced from a house in Bethesda, Maryland because as his landlord said,
“he seemed crazy and evil.” But before he left, he literally booby-trapped
Hadden began by balancing a 10-gallon can of oil on
top of a door so that it would spill when the door was pushed open.
After spraying black dye on the living room carpet, he hid rotting fish
heads inside the family’s piano, chimney, and stove. As a final act of
revenge, he killed both the family cats, placing one dead feline on the
front door welcome mat and the other inside the refrigerator. Finally he
stole several inconsequential items that ranged from books to tools--even
the family’s vacuum cleaner.
“The smell of decaying fish permeated the house and
was extremely difficult to eradicate,” the charging document read. Yet,
the combination of a gun possession charge and vandalism set off no
alarm bells about the man the local cops had once--albeit briefly--suspected
of killing a six-year old girl.
There were times that Hadden Clark attempted to get
help. He would often show up at a local veterans’ hospital but after
staying a few days and getting a few doses of Haldol, the anti-psychotic
drug, he would bolt from the ward and return to his woods.
A doctor’s diagnosis was a warning: “his mental state
is psychosis with questionable etiology. He states that birds and
squirrels talk to him and keep him company . . . he is tearful at times
with intermittent outbursts of anger and agitation . . . he is a
potential danger to himself through poor judgment and self-defeating
Hadden’s own words as recorded by the hospital’s
doctors were chilling. “I think I have a split personality,” he said. “I
don’t like to hurt people but I do things I am not aware of . . .”
In February of 1989, local police again arrested
Hadden Clark. This time there was a 17-count criminal indictment.
Fifteen of the counts were for theft. The acts were unusual. Hadden
Clark had dressed in women’s clothing and visited a number of area
churches. While women inside the churches attended choir practice, he
visited the cloakroom and stole both their purses and their coats.
On the day he was arrested, he pulled over to the
shoulder of a park road and tinkered with his car. When the police
offered assistance, Hadden panicked. He began fumbling around in the
front seat, attempting to hide some of the women’s coats and purses.
“No! No!” he told the cops. “You can’t go in my truck.”
It was too late. The police had seen a black gun
holster hanging at the top of a seatbelt restraint. They wanted to see
what else he had. When they saw the women’s purses and coats they asked
if he owned them. Hadden Clark said he did.
“They’re yours? The incredulous cop asked.
“Yes,” Hadden Clark answered. “I’m a woman.”
The cops searched further. There were women’s wigs, a
hypodermic syringe, women’s dresses, and a thick roll of cash.
Arrested, he finally served some jail time. He stayed
inside for 45days before he posted bail but later boasted that he did
the jail time on purpose because it was more comfortable in the county
detention center than outside in the freezing February cold. He began to
like the three meals a day, a roof over his head and movies every
Thursday. He was almost reluctant to leave when spring arrived.
Although some of the charges were dropped in exchange
for a guilty plea on two counts, the sentencing guidelines still called
for three months to two years. Again there was probation even though he
was already on probation in Maryland and Rhode Island.
Why such a minimal penalty?
“The defendant has serious mental problems and is now
addressing them,” Rockville, Maryland Judge Irma S. Raker wrote in her
sentencing opinion. His public defender, Donald Salzman, was so
sympathetic, he wrote a letter for Hadden Clark and instructed him to
hand it to any police officer the next time he was arrested. The note
TO ANY POLICE OFFICER:
I want the help of my lawyer, Donald P. Salzman
and I want my lawyer to be present before I answer any questions about
my case or any other matters.
I do not wish to speak to anyone concerning any
criminal charges pending against me or anyone else, or
any criminal investigation regardless of whether I am
I do not want to be in any lineup, or give any
handwriting samples, or give any blood, hair, urine,
or any other samples unless my lawyer is present.
My lawyer’s address and phone number are:
Donald P. Salzman
Assistant Public Defender
Office of the Public Defender
27 Courthouse Square
Rockville, Maryland 20850
Below the letter was a place for a police officer to
sign and next to that a phrase that said: “To prove that I have read
this statement to you or that you have read it, please sign here.”
Hadden Clark was a walking time bomb that now had a
“Get Out Of Jail Card” in his back pocket. The courts and the public
defender’s offices were doing everything possible to keep him on
the streets of Maryland and giving him every opportunity to kill again.
He would do so very shortly. And the beautiful young
woman who would be his victim would die a needless, terrible death
because of it.
Laura, Sweet Laura
“When I was five years old I got up the courage to
ask my mother if she believed in God,” Laura Houghteling once wrote in a
high school essay on life and death. “She said no and some things that I
didn’t understand. When I asked what would happen when somebody dies if
there is no God, she told us she didn’t know. That sounded pretty
ridiculous and lonely to me and I was scared because I didn’t want
anyone to die anymore and I wished there was a God for my mommy to
Laura Houghteling’s divorced mother, Penny, was a
psychotherapist and Laura was considered brilliant, someone who was
going places in life. Nobody was surprised when she was accepted into
Harvard University. Her friends expected great things from the beautiful
blonde who friends sometimes called Twiggy because she was six-feet tall.
“She was going to be president of this country one
day,” said her close friend, Susanna Monroney. The words were spoken
after Hadden Clark killed and tortured her in the worst way possible.
Penny Houghteling’s home in Bethesda, Maryland was
about 10 miles from where Hadden had murdered and cannibalized Michele
Dorr in 1986. Penny liked to help the unfortunate and thought she was
doing a good deed when she hired what she thought was a homeless man
from a local church organization in early 1992. She needed a gardener
and Hadden proved to be a good worker that soon cleaved to her as if she
was his mother. Hadden tended her zinnias and pruned her perennials so
well that she began to give him the run of the kitchen. He was allowed
to make himself coffee and use the bathroom while working without asking.
Penny was trusting and perhaps not very observing.
When a graduated strand of pearls disappeared, she didn’t confront her
employee. She also failed to notice that her underwear and other
clothing were being stolen, one piece at a time. Penny had once
complained to Hadden about some missing gardening tools and her employee
had blown up and yelled at her. Maybe she was being too hard on him, she
thought at the time.
Laura returned home after her Harvard graduation in
the summer of 1992. For Hadden, who had become mentally and emotionally
affixed to Penny, it seemed that Penny now had another child. She also
appeared to like this child more than him. Within days, Hadden Clark was
In mid-October Penny Houghteling told Hadden she
would be going away to a conference for a week. She gave him the exact
dates--from the 17th to the 25th. That was all Hadden Clark needed. The
next day he visited a local hardware chain and purchased two rolls of
duct tape, some braided rope, and some nylon cord. In the left hand
corner of the check he used for his purchases--where the word Memo was
printed--he wrote “Laura.”
That Saturday, the 17th of October, Laura went to a
horse meet in nearby Middleburg, Virginia. A gala dinner party followed
the event afterwards. The next day she slept in and then watched a
Sunday NFL football game with her older brother Warren and his housemate.
She had taken a temporary job in Washington until she decided whether to
go on to law school or become a teacher. There was a big project at the
firm due to start the next morning and so she went to bed early, just
after ten o’clock.
Around midnight Hadden Clark parked his truck on the
street next to the Houghteling house. He went to Penny’s gardening shed
and grabbed the spare house key he knew was kept inside.
Hadden didn’t look or feel like himself. For starters,
he was wearing a woman’s wig. Next to his skin he was wearing Penny
Houghteling’s underwear. He carried a black purse, and over Penny’s
lingerie he wore a woman’s blouse and slacks. He also wore a woman’s
trench coat and underneath the trench coat, he concealed a .22 caliber
rifle. He turned the key in the lock, tip-toed silently to Laura’s
bedroom and once inside, used the gun to nudge her awake. His first
words to her left the young woman speechless.
“Why are you in my bed?” he asked.
Laura didn’t know how to respond.
“What are you doing in my bed?”
His questions made no sense.
“Why are you wearing my clothes?” Hadden asked.
Tears fell from Laura’s eyes and onto her cheeks.
“Tell me I’m Laura.” he instructed.
“You’re Laura. Please don’t hurt me.”
Hadden asked Laura Houghteling to swear on the Bible
that he was Laura. She did. Then, holding the gun on her, he forced
Laura to get up, undress, and take a bath. After the cleansing ritual,
he led her back into the bedroom and made her lie down on her stomach.
His plan was to abduct her, take her to his campsite in the woods and
“introduce her to Hadden.” He bound her wrists with duct tape, then her
ankles. He turned her over and began covering her mouth with the tape,
but got so excited he couldn’t stop and the tape soon covered her nose
and eyes. She couldn’t breathe. Laura struggled until the lack of air
suffocated her and she lay motionless.
As Laura lay still, Hadden began removing the tape
from her face with a pair of scissors. Excited, his hand slipped and the
sharp shears pierced her neck and caused blood to flow onto the sheets
and pillowcase. He became fascinated with the earrings she was wearing
and decided to take them for a souvenir. When he had a hard time
removing the second one, he simply snipped it off with the sharp
scissors, amputating the lower part of her ear and causing more blood to
Hadden Clark sat by her bed and watched her nude body
for nearly an hour. At times he stroked her breasts but would later
claim that he neither raped nor practiced cannibalism on any part of her
remains. At three in the morning, he wrapped her body in a queen-sized
sheet, slung her over his shoulder, and stashed her remains on a narrow
bed underneath the cap of the rear of his truck. He went back inside and
gathered up the bloody evidence--the sheet, mattress pad, and pillowcase
and carried them out along with some trophies. Laura’s high school ring,
a crystal unicorn, and other personal effects went into his pockets.
Then he lay down on her bed and slept.
Laura’s killer left the house at around eight that
morning. He was wearing the woman’s wig and carrying the purse. A
housekeeper standing with a child waiting for a school bus would later
tell police she thought the person was Laura, headed out to her job.
Hadden got in his truck and drove two blocks to the parking lot of a
nearby church. He backed his truck into a corner of the lot and went to
sleep again. Laura’s dead body was beside him.
While Hadden slept, Laura’s employer began calling
the house, each time getting an answering machine. It wasn’t like Laura
to miss work and give no explanation. Concerned, she sent someone out to
the house to look around. The young woman, a personal friend, got no
answer when she rang the doorbell. Alarmed, she telephoned Laura’s
brother and began calling her friends. There was no reason to call the
After searching the house, Warren Houghteling decided
to walk the route Laura took to the bus stop that she often used to take
her to work. As he walked down the street, he saw Hadden Clark driving
towards them in his pickup truck. Hadden was planning another visit to
the house for more thievery. Innocently, Warren tried to wave him down
to see if the family gardener knew anything about his sister’s
whereabouts. Indeed, Hadden did pull over, but when Warren walked
towards him he had second thoughts and sped away as if the devil himself
was chasing after him. Warren thought the behavior was a bit weird but
then he knew Hadden was a little weird and didn’t think much about it.
Late that night he called the police and his mother. The cops told him
not to worry. Laura would likely turn up soon, they said.
Hadden was frightened after his encounter with Warren.
He decided to bury his prize that night. He drove to a spot on
Interstate-270, just across the highway from his latest campsite. Laura
was heavy. She weighed much more than Michele Dorr and he stumbled with
the dead weight until he dropped her, just 20 feet from the road. He dug
feverishly until there was a shallow grave. He rolled her into it and
covered the body with dirt and leaves. In the months to come, animals
would discover the body’s scent, and they would dig and paw into it,
trying to get to the remains. By spring, Laura’s wrists and lower
extremities would rise above ground; the heavy rains forcing the body
Catch the Devil
Still nervous after burying Laura Houghteling, Hadden
Clark drove north towards New England. In Rhode Island, he stopped and
stuffed the bloody sheets, mattress pad, and the items he had stolen
from Laura in a self-storage locker that he rented by the year. He kept
the pillowcase. That way he could relive the night by burying his face
into it. If he wanted a bigger thrill, he could take the bloody sheets
out of storage and play with them. He drove back to Washington, feeling
pretty proud of himself.
By now, the Montgomery County, Maryland cops wanted
to speak with Hadden. Warren and Penny had both mentioned his name and
when his description was phoned into headquarters, alarm bells went off.
Wasn’t he suspected in the disappearance of Michele Dorr? A still
trusting Penny Houghteling pooh-poohed the accusation.
“Hadden wouldn’t hurt anyone. He’s just a gardener,”
The cops had other ideas. Mike Garvey’s boss, Robert
Phillips, was called and he remembered Garvey’s account of Hadden
vomiting in the bathroom and his alibi. When he was asked whether or not
to bring him in, Phillips nearly exploded.
“Hadden Clark! Absolutely! Let’s go! Let’s get him!
That son-of-a-bitch got away once!” he shouted into the phone. The cops
called Hadden’s voice-mail number and Hadden called back almost
immediately. He was cool. No, he wouldn’t come by the station right now,
he said. He was going to bed in his truck. They would have to wait until
After the call, Hadden drove back to the same church
parking lot near Penny and Laura’s house. He went into his truck, found
the bloody pillowcase, and ran into some woods that bordered the church.
He threw the pillowcase near the base of a tree and went back to his
truck, falling into a troubled sleep.
When Hadden arrived the next day, he was escorted by
Sue Snyder, head of a local homeless group. The cops were gentle, partly
because they had nothing to arrest him for and partly because he was
chaperoned. Hadden, of course, had an alibi for everything except the
time Laura was killed. He was sleeping, he said, in his truck. When he
left the station, he began crying and Sue Snyder asked him why.
“I feel so bad for Penny and Warren,” he said.
When Laura failed to turn up, the local cops decided
to do a complete search of the area. A dog from the canine unit led them
into the woods near Penny’s house that bordered the church. There, the
dog turned up one of Penny’s bras, a woman’s blouse, a high-heeled shoe,
and Laura’s bloodied pillowcase. Taken to a lab, it was determined that
the blood was the same type as Laura’s. Then the police got lucky. There
was a single fingerprint on the blood. The cops hauled Hadden in again.
“I’m just a homeless man,” he blubbered when
apprehended. “I don’t have any friends. I’ll be jobless after this.”
During the interrogation, the cops bluffed.
“We found the pillow case in the woods,” he was told.
“It had a fingerprint on it. The print was yours.”
While they had found a fingerprint, it had not yet
been identified. They were hoping for a confession, a reaction. Hadden
didn’t completely crack, but he began whimpering and tears fell. He
pulled the wool toboggan he was wearing down over his eyes.
“What did you do with Laura Houghteling?” a detective
“I don’t remember,” he answered.
Despite this statement, the cops again let him go.
They still had nothing to hold him on.
Over the next few days, using search warrants, the
police examined Hadden’s bank account and found a copy of the
incriminating check their suspect had written to the hardware store.
They also located his campsite, searched it, but didn’t find Laura.
Then the lab confirmed it was Hadden’s fingerprint on
the bloody pillowcase. The cops found Hadden late that night, sleeping
in the back of his truck, his arms wrapped around a one-eyed teddy bear.
Hadden Clark would never see freedom again.
Faced with overwhelming evidence, even though there
was no body, Hadden Clark pled guilty to second-degree murder and
received a 30-year sentence in 1993. Within days after his sentencing,
he led the police, his lawyers, and the prosecutors to Laura Houghteling’s
In prison, Hadden made several mistakes. He began
boasting of his many murders, telling inmates in detail about how he
killed Michele Dorr, Laura, and others. The convicts, who hated child
killers, and who believed that informing on Hadden might also get them
early parole, contacted the police. In 1999, he was tried twice. The
first was for stealing from the Mahany family, which netted him another
ten years. The second, for the murder of Michele Dorr, where several of
his fellow inmates testified against him, got him another 30 years.
At the trial, his defense attorney tried to confuse
the jurors by pointing the finger at Carl Dorr, which didn’t work. After
the conviction, a crazed Hadden Clark confessed to a convict who he
believed was Jesus Christ (the prisoner did bear a startling resemblance
to the popular paintings of the Messiah) and told him where he buried
Michele Dorr. In January of 2000, Hadden led them to the woods and
helped to dig up her remains, nearly 14 years after he killed her.
One might think that an imprisoned Hadden Clark would
then sink into obscurity. Instead, he convinced an FBI serial killing
team that he might have murdered as many as a dozen other young women.
Between January and April, 2000 he and his friend “Jesus” were escorted
to several states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania)
where he claimed to have murdered young women. To facilitate the search,
law enforcement visited a local K-Mart where they purchased female
clothes and a wig for him to wear while they searched the dunes of Cape
Cod. In the end, the search for bodies was fruitless, partly because
more than 20 years had passed. Sand dunes had shifted and sites where
Hadden claimed to have buried victims had been covered over with asphalt
and were now strip malls.
The police, with Hadden’s help, did find something
that gave credibility to Hadden’s claims of more victims. At the edge of
his grandfather’s former estate, they dug up a large bucket that had
about 200 pieces of women’s jewelry in it. Several of the items were
Laura Houghteling’s. Hadden claimed to have taken the jewelry from each
of his victims as souvenirs.
Near the top of the bucket was an exquisite silver
wood nymph pin. Hadden Clark told detectives that the pin was his “angel
of death” and that it had been taken from his first victim. He claimed
to have worn it, pinned to Penny’s clothing, the night he killed Laura
Adrian Havill interviewed and corresponded with
Hadden Clark more than a dozen times for this account. Only the names of
Geoffrey Clark’s young children were changed in this story. The complete
life and crimes of Hadden Clark is chronicled in his book, Born Evil