COLUMBIA — When police searched William Clinch after he fatally shot his former brother-in-law, Jeremy Bohannon, they found a hand-written note in his pocket.
“No one will ever understand why I did this,” the note read. “Jeremy Bohannon is a monster and must be destroyed. … May Yahweh show forgiveness to my soul.”
Clinch, 39, went on trial Monday for first-degree murder and armed criminal action. Both sides in the case agree that shortly before 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 2, 2007, in the parking lot of the McDonald’s on Clark Lane, Clinch fatally shot Bohannon, 32.
Where they differ is on whether the killing can be justified as self-defense.
In his opening statement Monday morning, Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight said Clinch planned to kill Bohannon up to a year-and-a-half before the shooting.
As the day of the shooting approached, Clinch’s plans became more concrete, Knight told the jury of eight women and four men from Lafayette County. Clinch purchased a handgun, ammunition and targets, Knight said..
“He became an excellent shot with the murder weapon,” Knight said.
Clinch knew Bohannon would be at the McDonald’s on Sept. 2 because he knew Bohannon’s supervised visitation schedule with his children. Bohannon was divorced from Amanda Clinch, William Clinch's sister, in 2007. Knight said Clinch arrived at the parking lot about an hour before the shooting, waiting in his car with two loaded magazines and a box of ammunition.
“This was the perfect time and the perfect place,” Knight said.
When Bohannon arrived, Clinch came up behind him and shot him in the buttocks, Knight said.
Bohannon fled across the parking lot, but witnesses will testify and a video will show that Clinch “calmly” pursued him, Knight said. Clinch then shot Bohannon once in the head, dropping him to the ground. Clinch stood over Bohannon and shot him twice more in the head, Knight said.
Bohannon was pronounced dead after being taken from the scene.
As for Clinch’s motivation for the shooting, Knight said Clinch was “unusually close” to Amanda Clinch, his sister and Bohannon’s ex-wife, and was “enraged” at how he thought Bohannon was treating her and their three young children.
“The defendant wanted Jeremy’s children,” Knight said.
Knight also said Clinch wanted to be caught and believed he acted heroically. He said Clinch was caught up in the spectacle of murder trials. As a former friend of Jesse Valencia, he attended every day of Steven Rios' first murder trial. Valencia was an MU student, who was killed by Rios in 2004.
The breaking point for Clinch was about a month before the shooting, Knight said, when a judge ruled Bohannon could see the children in an unsupervised setting as long as he passed certain parenting and anger management classes. Before that, Bohannon was allowed only supervised visits, for some of which Clinch himself was in charge.
But there was a reason Bohannon was only permitted supervised visits with his children, public defender Jennifer Bukowsky argued in her opening statement. She said Bohannon beat the children and threatened to kill them and Amanda Clinch on several occasions. Bukowsky added that, after Bohannon and Amanda Clinch’s separation, his behavior became increasingly erratic.
The Clinch family, and especially William Clinch, was concerned about what Bohannon might do, Bukowsky said. The tight-knit family belonged to the Yahweh Assembly of Messiah church and lived near each other in Rocheport, where the church is based.
William Clinch realized the danger posed by Bohannon on Oct. 30, 2005, when he received a call from his sister asking for help, Bukowsky said. Clinch arrived at the house to find Bohannon “screaming” and “deranged.” He realized then that there was something wrong with his brother-in-law, Bukowsky said.
“That night led to a series of events that have brought us here today,” Bukowsky told the jury.
In the almost two years between that night and the shooting, Bohannon’s behavior became more aggressive and unpredictable, Bukowsky said. He killed the family cat, Bukowsky said, and left it outside Amanda Clinch's house. The prosecution earlier said that the cat was ill, and Bohannon had it put to sleep by a veterinarian.
Several members of the Clinch family filed orders of protection against him.
“Every day they lived in terror of this guy,” Bukowsky said.
When Clinch found out that Bohannon was going to get unsupervised visits with the children, he decided that killing Bohannon would be the only way to save the children, Bukowsky said.
Bukowsky did not go into details of the shooting. She simply noted that afterward, Clinch called 911 and lay down in the parking lot to wait for police to arrive.