Missing evidence in Hester murder trial recovered

Witnesses say Clark thought girlfriend Hester was having an affair, but wasn’t

Posted: Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Testimony in the murder trial of a Kasilof woman was cut short today due to the discovery of new evidence. On Jan. 11, the jury in the trial listened to a recording of a 911 call in which Betsy M. Hester was heard telling 911 dispatch she had just shot her boyfriend. The recording, however, was incomplete and the location of the second half of the recording apparently unknown. On Monday it was announced the recording had been found.

Hester, 53, is charged with one count of second-degree murder for allegedly killing John E. Clark, 49, of Kasilof, on Oct. 4, 2003, in the mobile home they lived in together.

The defense had planned on calling Hester to testify Monday, but when they discovered the missing portion of the 911 recording had been found, decided to delay her testimony until after they had the opportunity to review it.

The defense, however, did call two other witnesses to testify. Steven Graham, who claimed to have known Clark for more than 20 years, testified that he spoke with Clark at the Decanter Inn in Kasilof just hours before the shooting. At the bar, Clark spoke, as he had several weeks prior, about an affair he suspected Hester was having with another man at work, Graham said. Clark suspected the affair because she seemed to be spending a lot of extra hours at work and because he sometimes had trouble reaching her when he tried to call her.

Charles Grasso, the man Clark had suspected of having an affair with Hester, also testified, but denied there had ever been a romantic relationship between Hester and himself. And in contrast to what Clark reportedly told Graham, Grasso said Hester worked standard hours and did not stay late nights working at the front desk of Kenai Body and Paint in 2003.

Hester and Clark dated for approximately seven years and the defense claims that as Clark began to suffer severe health problems in the last few years of his life, he became irritable and possessive of Hester. But Clark had no reason to feel insecure in his relationship with Hester, who was deeply devoted to Clark, the defense has said.

Nonetheless, the defense contends that this insecurity, irritableness and possessiveness reached a dangerous crescendo Oct. 4, after Clark and Hester returned from the Decanter Inn.

In multiple interviews recorded after the shooting, and played to the jury in the murder trial, Hester was heard telling authorities that after she and Clark returned home Oct. 4, Clark cornered her in a chair in their living room and slapped and hit her numerous times.

He then went to the kitchen, and as he returned, continuing to threaten bodily harm, she allegedly shot him twice with a 9mm pistol.

According to former state medical examiner Dr. Susan Klingler, who testified Jan. 11, one bullet struck Clark in the arm and exited through his upper left back and a second entered his upper left back, struck the bottom half of his heart, went through his lung, exited the left side of his abdomen and probably continued from his abdomen to nick his left thigh.

Hester called 911 dispatch reporting the shooting at 1:47 a.m. Oct. 4.

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