Vernon Castle Clark is behind bars for killing his friend, Jose Lopez-Perez, with a tire iron during an argument that occurred at his home in Doña Ana County, New Mexico.
At around 9 p.m. on Feb. 23, 2016, law enforcement officers were dispatched to a home in the 2100 block of Rocca Secca, which is just outside the Las Cruces city limits, after receiving a 911 call about a woman screaming for help.
When they arrived on the scene, they found Lopez-Perez, 33, dead outside with a tire iron lodged in his head, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
An investigation revealed that Lopez-Perez got into an argument with Clark inside his house. When Clark left, he slammed the door behind, which was a “no-no in that house,” said the defense attorney.
Lopez-Perez, 33, followed behind him, and the argument continued outside. It was during that time that Clark retrieved a tire iron and threw it at Lopez-Perez as his mother watched on.
The victim’s mother stated that “he [Clark] had that iron thing in his hand. He lifted it up and even lifted his foot, and then he struck in my son. My son fell, and I was not able to do anything.”
“My son fell face-down with his hands behind him, and I went running outside, and I saw from his back and I saw that thing had been stabbed in his head.”
Clark reportedly fled the scene before police arrived. He was later arrested and booked into the Doña Ana County Detention Center, where he was held without bond.
He was charged with second-degree murder.
During an interrogation, Clark told detectives that he didn’t mean to kill his friend and that he only threw the tire iron to scare him.
“To me, it was accident almost,” he said. “We got into a confrontation. I was pursued, and during the pursuit and altercation, I was assaulted as well — I really was assaulted as well — but defended myself.”
Clark’s defense attorney, who claimed that incident was the result of his drug addiction and mental illness, recommended a four-year sentence. He also described “the throwing of the tire iron as a ‘one-in-a-million shot.’”
“And unfortunately, it caused the death of Mr. Perez.”
In September 2017, Clark took a plea deal and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Following an hour-long hearing, the judge sentenced Clark to 14 years in prison and 18 months of supervised probation.
He received credit for the 19 months he was already incarcerated.