Thomas Clayton has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in the murder of his wife, Kelley Stage Clayton.
According to police, Thomas Clayton hired Michael Beard to kill Kelley.
It was the maximum sentence allowed. The first charge of First Degree Murder carries the maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison without parole, the second charge of Second Degree Murder carries a maximum sentence of 25 years to life.
Steuben County Judge Peter Bradstreet sentenced Clayton to the maximum on each charge.
“Once the judge gave Michael Beard that at the time of his sentencing, I expected nothing less,” Special Prosecutor Weeden Wetmore said. “As the attorneys for Beard said, this guy (Thomas) was the mastermind, he was the true predator in the case.”
Michael Beard was convicted back in Nov. and sentenced in Feb. to life without the possibility of parole for his role in the crime.
“I truly believe that this is one of those rare moments, and I emphasize ‘rare,’ where the jury got it wrong,” Thomas’ defense attorney Ray Schlather said. “And unfortunately, once the die is cast, there isn’t a whole lot that follows, except for the inevitable and that’s what this sentence was.”
Final pleas from Thomas Clayton and his defense attorney failed to have any effect on the sentencing. The two discussed what they believed to be massive flaws in the prosecution’s investigation as well as Thomas’ positive polygraph test results.
The testimony of the prosecution’s cell phone mapping and tracking expert, Sy Ray, once again came into question by the defense. Both Thomas and Schlather said his findings were manipulated and flawed.
“The jury was the true lie detector in a case of this sort,” Wetmore said. “He can say all he wants about our witnesses, but why didn’t he take the stand and offer his own defense?”
Kelley’s family and friends gave statements during the sentencing. Kelley’s sister, Kim, read as statement she wrote to Thomas, along with a note the Clayton’s daughter wrote for her father. In that note, the Clayton’s daughter called Clayton a ‘coward’ for asking Michael Beard to kill Kelley.
Kim discussed the effects the murder had on the Clayton’s two children. Kim said the Clayton’s daughter suffers from severe post traumatic stress disorder, and the Clayton’s son often suffers from night terrors and cannot sleep alone.
She later said Thomas’ actions immediately following Kelley’s death ‘weren’t those of a true widower or an innocent man.’
Some of Kelley’s friends also read statements to the court. All said Kelley was a loving mother, sister, friend, and more- and if it weren’t for Thomas Clayton, Kelley would still be alive.
Thomas also spoke for the first time in the case. At one point, he was yelling to the courtroom that he had nothing to do with his wife’s murder.
Thomas said his freedom may be taken, his rights will be violated, but that his family and his love can’t be taken from him. Thomas also said he felt Kelley’s friends and family have disgraced her since her death.
After the sentencing was handed down, Thomas’ defense and family maintain that he’s innocent, and they’ll still fight to free him.
“I am extremely proud and honored to call Thomas my son,” Thomas’ father, Scott Clayton, said. “I will hold my head high and not be ashamed, (Thomas) has carried himself well in spite of the huge miscarriage of justice that has come his way.”
“There truly is a Thomas Clayton that is known to the world as a remarkable human being. And I think unfortunately the evidence spun out of control,” Schlather said. “There were issues that will be raised on appeal, which presumably will put us back here a year from now.”