COLUMBIA — William Clinch was not supposed to be at the Columbia Public Library when he was threatened by his former brother-in-law, a witness testified Friday in Clinch's murder trial.
The threat has been an important aspect of the defense, which is centered on the danger Clinch says Bohannon posed to his family.
On May 31, 2007, Jeremy Bohannon was to meet his three young children for a supervised visit at the library. Bohannon, 32, and Amanda Clinch were separated, and Bohannon was only permitted to see the children twice a week in a supervised setting.
At the end of the supervised visit, Clinch approached Bohannon and the children and said to Bohannon, “'The visit’s over,'” testified Alissha Vazquez-Gonzalez, who was supervising the visit.
Clinch previously testified that during the visit Bohannon threatened to rip his head off.
But Vazquez-Gonzalez shed new light on the incident Friday afternoon. She said Bohannon thought he was supposed to have 30 more minutes with the children and he got angry when Clinch came to pick them up early.
She said Bohannon’s anger was directed toward Clinch for ending the little time he had with the children. “He was not violent toward the children at all,” Vazquez-Gonzalez said.
Clinch, 39, of Hallsville, is accused of fatally shooting Bohannon on Sept. 2, 2007, in the McDonald's parking lot on Clark Lane. He is on trial for first-degree murder and armed criminal action.
Six witnesses took the stand for the defense Friday, their testimony frequently interrupted by objections from Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight and sidebars with Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler. Several witnesses had to be reminded by Oxenhandler to answer only the questions asked by attorneys.
Early on in the day, a Missourian reporter was asked to leave the courtroom for a portion of the testimony because a photo that included several jurors in the background was published on ColumbiaMissourian.com. The photo was later removed.
On Friday morning, Clinch’s therapist testified he suffered from an adjustment disorder with anxiety and depression.
Clinch met 11 times with his therapist, Mary Williamson, the last visit occurring about a month before the fatal shooting of Jeremy Bohannon in September 2007. Williamson testified that on that last visit Clinch seemed to be doing better. He told her he'd gained back some of the weight he had lost and was sleeping more.
The defense’s focus Friday on Clinch’s mental health was a change of tack from its approach in previous days, in which the defense had sought to convince the jury that Clinch killed his former brother-in-law in self-defense. Clinch has testified that he feared Bohannon would kill him, his sisterand her three children.
Williamson testified that Clinch told her he credited Amanda Clinch's children with saving his life. He had been in a “great depression” before the children were born, even attempting suicide. But things changed for him when they were around.
“He cared very deeply for these children,” Williamson said. Clinch felt like he owed them a lot, she said.
Bohannon’s former psychologist Bonnie Riley testified that she “felt” Bohannon was being abusive to his children. She said Bohannon admitted that he believed the Bible instructed him to hit his kids three times a week.
Riley said he told her, “I will not disobey God. I will not raise spoiled children. ‘Spare the rod, spoil the child.’”
Knight pointed out that she never met the children or reported this alleged abuse to the authorities. In Missouri, therapists are required to report suspicion of child abuse.
The trial is scheduled to continue at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Boone County Courthouse.
Missourian reporter Tram Whitehurst contributed to this report.