UPDATE: Witnesses testify at Clinch trial, describe scene of shooting

Tuesday, October 20, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT
From left, Tony Manansala, Paul Hood, William Clinch, and Jennifer Bukowsky confer during the murder trial held at the Boone County Courthouse on Monday. Clinch shot and killed his former brother-in-law in the McDonald's parking lot located on Clark Lane on September 2, 2007.

COLUMBIA — After fatally shooting his former brother-in-law in a McDonald’s parking lot, William Clinch called 911, sat down on the ground and smiled, witnesses testified Monday.

When police searched him, 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.”

Bohannon was recently divorced from Clinch’s sister.

Clinch, 39, of Hallsville was 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, Clinch fatally shot Bohannon, 32, in the parking lot of the McDonald’s on Clark Lane.

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 nine women and five men from Lafayette County. According to him, Clinch purchased a handgun, ammunition and targets.

Clinch knew Bohannon would be at the McDonald’s on Sept. 2 because he knew Bohannon’s supervised visitation schedule with his children. 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.

Joseph Vaughn, one of the witnesses, testified Monday that he was sitting in the drive-through lane when he heard gunshots. He said he saw Bohannon running away from Clinch screaming and begging him to stop shooting. Bohannon was first shot in the buttocks. 

Lisa Ballenger, another witness who made a 911 call, said she saw a man she identified as Clinch approach another man with a gun. In her emergency call, Ballenger narrated the events as they happened to the dispatcher.

As the 911 call was played for the jury, the victim’s father, Jim Bohannon, covered his face crying as the woman sitting next to him wrapped her arms around him trying to comfort him.

Gary Ballenger, another witness, testified that he saw Bohannon run behind a truck to hide from Clinch, when the defendant shot the victim in the head. As Bohannon lay on the ground, Gary Ballenger said Clinch stood over him and fired two more shots to his head.

Bohannon died after being taken from the scene.

Boone County Sheriff's Department Deputy Philip Smith, who was the first officer on the scene, said that Clinch was cooperative and smiling as he was taken into custody. Once Clinch was removed from the scene, Smith said that people came out of hiding in bushes and behind cars and that there were 15 to 20 people watching from Cracker Barrel down the street. 

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 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, some of which Clinch himself was in charge.

Public defender Jennifer Bukowsky said Clinch was concerned about Bohannon's behavior. 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.

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. Several members of the Clinch family filed orders of protection against Bohannon.

“The idea of Bohannon having those defenseless, innocent children alone terrified him,” Bukowsky said. That is when Clinch made the decision that in order to save his two nieces and nephew, he would have to kill Jeremy Bohannon, she said.

Missourian reporter Tram Whitehurst contributed to this report.

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