COLUMBIA — Hours after the fatal shooting of Jeremy Bohannon, William Clinch told his father on the phone from the Boone County Jail that Bohannon’s death would make a custody battle easier for his sister.
Before resting its case Tuesday afternoon in Clinch’s murder trial, the prosecution played a series of clips from phone conversations Clinch had with family members after his arrest.
Clinch, 39, of Hallsville, is on trial for first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of 32-year-old Bohannon, his former brother-in-law. Clinch is accused of fatally shooting Bohannon on Sept. 2, 2007, in the parking lot of the McDonald’s on Clark Lane.
The prosecution played the clip of the phone conversation between Clinch and his father, Dennis Clinch Sr., for the Lafayette County jury. It lasted less than two minutes, every second quieting the courtroom.
The men spoke calmly and in a conversational manner.
In the clip, Dennis Clinch Sr. said he remembered his son mentioning “doing something like this,” but he didn’t think he would actually go through with it.
“We really appreciate what you’ve done,” Dennis Clinch Sr. told his son. “We really appreciate it.”
“It should make the custody battle easier now,” William Clinch said. He told his father that Bohannon’s parents would not be able to do much now.
Bohannon’s father, Jim Bohannon, stared at the floor while the clip played.
The day began with the viewing of a video of the shooting.
Captured by a security camera near a drive-through window at the McDonald’s on Clark Lane, the 10-minute video shows a man moving quickly across the parking lot, followed seconds later by another man who appears to be chasing him.
The first man moves behind a white truck and then disappears from view. The man who was chasing him walks around the truck, stands in place for several seconds and then moves a few feet away. About a minute later, he lies down on the ground.
Without sound and of poor quality, the video doesn't make it easy to determine who the men were or when shots were fired. While the jury had no visible reaction to the video, Jim Bohannon left the courtroom.
According to Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight, the second man in the video is Clinch.
About a month before the shooting, Bohannon and Amanda Clinch, William Clinch’s sister, divorced. They separated in 2006, and Bohannon was permitted supervised visits with their three young children.
The Clinch family and Bohannon had been feuding for much of that time. Several Clinch family members filed orders of protection against Bohannon, and William Clinch feared Bohannon might harm his sister and the children. His defense attorney said that was his motive for the shooting.
At about 4 p.m. Tuesday, the defense called its first witness: William Clinch. He appeared confident and did not display much emotion on the witness stand.
Clinch was questioned by his attorney, public defender Jennifer Bukowsy. His testimony Tuesday focused mostly on his adult life. After she asked about Amanda Clinch's brief stay in Florida, Bukowsy asked how many times the brother and sister had ever had sex.
"Never," he said. Clinch said later that he is gay.
Bukowsy moved on to asking about his first encounters with Bohannon.
At first Clinch liked Bohannon, both as his sister’s husband and as a friend, he said. The two first met in 2002.
But a series of events starting in the fall of 2004 made him worry for the safety of his sister and her three children, Clinch testified.
In the fall of 2004, Clinch went over to his sister’s home to see his nephew, Joey, and Bohannon. Joey sat in his bouncy chair and started to reach for a VCR tape next to him, but Bohannon became “irate” at the toddler, Clinch testified.
“He yanked him out of the bouncy chair and went into the back room, down the hallway,” he said. “I heard slapping sounds.” Clinch slapped his right hand into his left palm as he demonstrated to the jury.
“Joey was screaming and crying, worse than I have ever heard him,” Clinch said.
When Bohannon brought the child back, he acted like nothing happened as Joey kept crying, Clinch testified.
“Why didn’t you call the police?” Bukowsky asked.
Clinch sighed. “I should have. At the time I was shocked. I just didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to step over my boundaries. I was Joey’s uncle, but Jeremy was his dad.”
The second incident happened in March 2005 when the Clinch family went to dinner at Bohannon’s home.
Clinch noticed that Joey looked “sick,” “yellow” and like a “rag doll,” while his mother was holding him, Clinch said.
“My mom said, ‘This baby needs medical attention,’” Clinch testified. “Jeremy snapped. He started screaming, ‘You are accusing me of being a bad father.’ He yanked Joey out my mom’s hands and said that he wanted everyone out.”
Amanda Clinch took Joey to the hospital the next morning after Bohannon left for work, Clinch said.
The trial is scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday with more testimony from William Clinch.
Missourian reporter Tram Whitehurst contributed to this report.