Timeline of Kelley Clayton Murder Case

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Kelley Clayton, 35, was murdered Sept. 29, 2015 at her home in the Town of Caton.

Thomas Clayton, Michael Beard, and Mark Blandford have all been charged in connection with her murder.

Beard was found guilty in November 2016 of one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder.

Thomas’ trial is set to begin Monday, Jan. 9.

Blandford remains in jail.

Below is a timeline of events in this case:

September 29, 2015

Police respond to a call at 12:39 a.m. and find Kelley Clayton dead in her home located at 2181 Ginnan Rd. in the Town of Caton.

Thomas Clayton, Kelley’s husband, is arrested in connection to Kelley’s murder.

October 3, 2015

Michael Beard, of Elmira, is arrested and charged with second-degree murder in connection to Kelley’s murder and is sent to the Steuben County Jail without bail.

Sheriff Deputies from Steuben County, in conjunction with New York State Police and the Chemung County Sheriff’s Office, conduct a K-9 and foot search along State Route 225 and in an area near the intersection of State Route 225 and State Route 352 along the Chemung River in the Town of Big Flats. Several items are recovered and secured as evidence.

Clayton’s defense attorney Ray Schlather says his client is innocent.

October 5, 2015

Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker says this may be a murder-for-hire situation.

Clayton is arraigned and charged with second-degree murder in Steuben County Court. His bail is set at $250,000.

Clayton is released from Steuben County Jail after posting bail hours later.

October 7, 2015

Clayton is arrested at the Redwood Inn in Alpine Junction for violating an order of protection, a class ‘A’ misdemeanor, while attempting to contact his two children.

His bail is set to $500,000 cash or $1 million property bond.

October 8, 2015

A trust is set up to benefit the Clayton’s two children.

Attorney John Maloney says the trust is set up to receive and distribute donations for the children’s health, education support and maintenance.

The children are in the custody of Kelley’s sister and brother-in-law.

October 9, 2015

Baker requests Chemung County District Attorney Weeden Wetmore, instead of himself, to prosecute Clayton and Beard.

Baker cites the following reasons for his request: his personal connection to Kelley, input from Kelley’s friends and their connection to him and the fact that events in this case took place next door to his home.

October 13, 2015

Wetmore and Schlather agree to reduce Clayton’s bail to $10,000 cash or $20,000 property bond.

Wetmore says the reduced bail amount is not connected to the second-degree murder charge.

Clayton posts $10,000 bail and is released from the Steuben County Jail.

October 15, 2015

Authorities find items of interest in two searches for evidence related to Kelley’s murder.

Evidence is found on Grand Central Avenue in Elmira Heights and in the City of Elmira near Hall Street.

So far, over 285 leads have been investigated in relation to Kelley’s murder.

October 19, 2015

Multiple police agencies scour the Chemung River, near Fitch’s Bridge in the Town of Big Flats, looking for evidence.

November 18, 2015

Beard is indicted by the grand jury.

November 23, 2015

Beard pleads not guilty to one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder.

He is sent back to the Steuben County Jail without bail.

December 16, 2015

A Steuben County grand jury indicts Clayton on one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder.

December 17, 2015

Clayton pleads not guilty to first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder at his arraignment.

January 25, 2016

Beard’s pre-trial hearing is held. There are no objections to evidence presented, but both sides ask for more time to review it.

April 12, 2016

Clayton appears in court after his lawyer files a motion hearing to try and obtain evidence from the prosecution.

Schlather says the evidence is exculpatory (evidence favorable to the defendant in a criminal trial that may exonerate the defendant), and that it must be handed over to the defense.

Wetmore maintains that the evidence is not exculpatory.

The evidence in question pertains to the life insurance policy that was taken out for Kelley about a year before her death, as well as accounts of Clayton and Kelley’s relationship as described by those who knew the couple.

June 3, 2016

Beard is in court for his Huntley Hearing.

The judge listens to Beard’s statements that he made when he was questioned by police and determines that they can be admissible in his trial.

Beard’s trial date is set for Oct. 24.

August 30, 2016

Mark Blandford, of Elmira, is arrested and charged with two counts of second-degree murder, one count of burglary and two counts of conspiracy.

He is charged for his alleged involvement in the burglary and arson that police say also took place at the crime scene.

Blandford pleads not guilty and is sent to Steuben County Jail on $100,000 cash bail or $200,000 property bond.

September 2, 2016

Clayton’s defense team asks prosecution to drop all charges against Clayton, saying there is no connection between Clayton and Blandford. The defense also maintains that Clayton had nothing to do with Kelley’s murder.

Wetmore says the prosecution’s investigation shows that Clayton hired Beard; Beard in turn solicited the help of Blandford.

September 28, 2016

2181 Ginnan Rd. in Caton, where Kelley was murdered, is listed for sale for $239,000 on multiple real estate websites.

September 29, 2016

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Kelley’s death.

October 6, 2016

Clayton is in court for his Huntley Hearing, which was requested by the defense and allows Judge Bradstreet to review the way the police obtained statements from the defendant.

Clayton’s defense tries to determine if first responders assumed Clayton had killed Kelley in an act of domestic violence shortly after they arrived at the scene.

Seven witnesses take the stand, including two New York State Police Investigators, two Steuben County Sheriff’s Deputies, a Steuben County Sheriff’s Investigator, the Steuben Co. Undersheriff, and Baker.                                                                                                                

One Steuben County Deputy says he found Clayton at the home on his knees, visibly upset while Kelley was dead in the other room.

A New York State Police Investigator says Clayton would only speak to him and says that Clayton told investigators to check his truck’s GPS to show he was not home that night.

Deputies say Clayton took his kids over to a neighbor’s home and told his kids it was a robbery.

Schlather maintains Clayton is being wrongly accused.

October 24, 2016

Jury selection begins in Beard’s trial.

October 25, 2016

Eight men and four women and three male alternate jurors are selected for Beard’s trial and opening statements begin.

In the prosecution’s one-hour opening statement, Wetmore discusses the DNA and circumstantial evidence that he says pinpoints Beard as Kelley’s murderer.

Wetmore also discusses how Beard confessed to police about killing Kelley, how Beard also showed police where the murder weapon was, and that Beard told police Clayton offered him $10,000 to kill Kelley days before the crime occurred.

The defense says Beard did enter the home the night the crime took place. However, the defense claims Beard was hired by Clayton to burn down the home for insurance money. Beard’s defense says he was told the home would be empty at the time, but when he went in to burn it down, he discovered Kelley’s dead body and heard children upstairs, so he left.

The defense also claims Beard was forced to confess to police that he killed Kelley because he was fearful his girlfriend, who is now his wife, may have also been arrested if he didn’t confess, or keep his story.

October 26, 2016

Thirteen witnesses take the stand in day three of Beard’s trial.

The 911 operator, a neighbor, first responders, an investigator, and a blood spatter expert are just some of the witnesses that take the stand.

October 27, 2016

Six witnesses testify on day four of Beard’s trial, including multiple New York State Police Investigators and the man who conducted Beard’s lie detector test take the stand.

A transcript of Beard admitting to killing Kelley, in detail, is read in court.

October 28, 2016

Thirteen witnesses take the stand on the fifth day of the trial.

New witnesses taking the stand: Monroe County Medical Examiner, a New York State Police K-9 Unit, two business owners, a forensic scientist with the New York State Police

Witnesses returning to the stand: a blood spatter expert, a New York State Police Investigator

October 31, 2016

One previous witness and eleven new witnesses testify on day six of the trial.

Among the witnesses to take the stand are: Clayton’s lifelong friend and former co-worker at ServPro, a friend of the Clayton’s, three women who claim they each had sexual relationships with Clayton while he was married to Kelley.

November 1, 2016

Ten witnesses, two of whom have previously testified, take the stand on day seven.

A local meteorologist, two New York State Police forensic scientists and an insurance salesman and friend of Clayton testify.

November 2, 2016

Beard’s grand jury testimony was presented to the jury on day eight. In it, Beard confesses to beating Kelley to death with a maul hammer handle.

Following reading the grand jury testimony and one more witness taking the stand, the prosecution rests.

Beard takes the stand and says he was intimidated into giving a confession by investigators. He says Clayton told him the home was empty and that he could move forward with the plan of burning the house down. 

Beard says he picked Blandford up before going to the Clayton’s and he offered him money if he would act as a lookout while he went inside to burn the home down.

Beard says that a person wearing a mask was inside the Clayton home when he arrived and this person handed Beard the alleged murder weapon.

Other witnesses that take the stand are an investigator and blood spatter expert with the New York State Police and an expert on criminal interrogation and confessions.

November 3, 2016

Day nine of Beard’s trial begins with a video interview conducted the day Kelley was murdered. The video features two members of law enforcement interviewing one of the Clayton’s two children.

In the video, the child says the attacker looked like “daddy.”

The 51st and final witness, Steuben County Undersheriff Jim Allard, is called to the stand by the prosecution.

The defense takes 27 minutes to give its closing argument.

The prosecution’s closing argument lasts 90 minutes.

Jury deliberations begin just after 3 p.m.

November 4, 2016

On day ten and after approximately seven hours, over the course of two days, the jury finds Beard guilty on one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder in connection to Kelley’s murder.

Beard’s sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 30. The most severe charge, first-degree murder, carries a maximum possible sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

January 9, 2017

Clayton’s trial begins.

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