When the Dogs Didn’t Bark: Murder of Robert M. Clary 1982

Murder Victim

Robert M. Clary
48-year-old Pipefitter
1934-1982
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Motive: Love Triangle

Murder Scene and Date

419 1/2 14th Avenue S.
Clinton, Iowa
Clinton County
September 29, 1982

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By Nancy Bowers
Written February 2012

location of Clinton, Iowa

location of Clinton, Iowa

Shortly after 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday September 29, 1982, Clinton resident Jackie Chadwick went out to feed pet dogs behind her home at 419 4th Avenue South. Parked in the backyard was a mobile home she rented to 48-year-old Robert Clary.

That morning Chadwick sensed something wasn’t right when she saw Clary’s door ajar. Inside, she saw his body — clad in street clothes — lying next to a bloody chair. He had been shot once in the chest.

Police and an ambulance arrived at 7:30 and Capt. Russell Bentley of the Clinton Police took over the crime scene. Later that day, Clinton Police Chief Robert Jones requested assistance from the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation.

Robert M. Clary

Robert M. Clary

There was no evidence of a struggle in the mobile home. A window was broken, but it was not recent damage.

Although Clary’s landlady Jackie Chadwick heard nothing during the night, other neighbors reported gunshots about 5:00 a.m., which corresponded with Clinton County Medical Examiner Dr. Salvador Borja’s estimated time of death.

Several neighborhood dogs — some chained within 20 feet of Clary’s home — usually barked at anything suspicious, but not that night according to residents. Investigators, however, found the dogs didn’t bark at them and accepted food and water. One, in fact, dozed under the mobile home during a search around the premises.

Robbery was ruled out because Clary was unemployed, strapped for money, and never carried much cash.

Those who knew the six-foot, 230-pound Clary said he was toughened by construction work and it would have taken a weapon to subdue or control him.

☛ Recent Disturbances ☚

Robert Clary crime scene (from the Clinton Herald, courtesy David Jindrich)

Robert Clary crime scene (from the Clinton Herald, courtesy David Jindrich)

A neighbor told the Clinton Herald that police came to Clary’s residence four times in the preceding two days, but didn’t know the specifics of the calls.

One neighbor said that a fight erupted at a Sunday party, another that Clary and his girlfriend fought that day. Police Chief Jones, however, related to the Clinton Herald that the incident “was nothing of any spectacular proportions.”

Ironically, Chief Robert Jones grew up in the same neighborhood as Clary and hung out with him and his brothers. However, Jones said they went their separate ways as adults and seldom saw each other.

☛ Romantic Connection? ☚

Clary’s neighbors Linda and Robert Baughman had been friends with him for 20 years.

The Baughmans believed Clary’s murder was related to a romantic love triangle involving a married woman he was dating. Linda Baughman said she and her husband had coffee a few days before the murder with Clary and the girlfriend. Clary showed them a new pair of cowboy boots and a vest he gave her and pointed out damage the woman’s husband had done to them with a meat cleaver.

Although Clary was married and divorced twice, he maintained cordial relationships with both ex-wives.

☛ Robert Clary’s Last Day ☚

At the time of his death, Clary was an unemployed construction worker.

Although most acquaintances said he kept to himself — and some even characterized him as a loner — he had a small, dependable group of friends he saw daily.

At 7:30 on Tuesday morning, he met the friends at the Knight Spot, a south side bar.

Then he called the Davenport Union Hall to see if there was pipefitter work and cashed an unemployment check for $83.

He spent the rest of the day in south Clinton, checking out the usual places his friends frequented. He seemed to have just missed them everywhere he stopped.

At 7:30 that night, he found them at Roy’s place. When he came in alone, customers were surprised because he was usually was with at least one other person.

Clary seemed flat or “down” to his friends, although he didn’t talk about it. He drank two beers. When someone wanted to buy him two more, he said to save them for him because he was going home to grab a couple of hours of sleep and would be back.

After leaving Ray’s Place at 7:30, however, Clary did not come back. None of his friends knew where he went, although he was reportedly seen walking south on 4th Street about 11:30 p.m.

About 5:00 a.m., he was murdered.

☛ Robert Clary’s Life ☚

photo by Michael Kearney

photo by Michael Kearney

Robert M. Clary was born on June 6, 1934 in Clinton to Mary Carmela Spain and Kenneth Clary.

He graduated in 1953 from St. Mary’s High School, where he boxed and played football and basketball, and then served in the U.S. Army in Korea.

On November 26, 1955, he married Doris Isabelle Luce; together they raised six children — Robert, Shawn, Bryan, Stephen, Connie, and Cindy. They divorced in 1967.

Clary and his second wife Sandra divorced in April 1982.

Clary was known as a good worker and a quick learner at jobs with Economy Construction and Holsteins Construction. For a year, he worked on a South American construction site.

He also tended bar at Jen’s Tavern and was an Assistant Manager of the Eagle Supermarket.

His neighbor and friend Linda Baughman told the Clinton Herald, “He was a worker — when he wasn’t working, he was drinking.”

When the Clinton Herald asked Clary’s drinking pals to characterize him, one said he was “a mean s.o.b. — tough and ornery.” Others called him “charming” and a hit with ladies; friend Jack Demondy said:

“He was nothing but a gentleman — he just lived a rough life.”

But all who knew him agreed with yet another friend who said, “He’d help anybody.”
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Please note: Use of information in this article should credit Nancy Bowers as the author and Iowa Unsolved Murders: Historic Cases as the source.

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☛ David Jindrich contributed special research and correspondence to this article. ☚

References

  • ☛ “Clary had routine day before death,” Clinton Herald, September 30, 1982.
  • ☛ “Gunshot wound killed Clary,” Clinton Herald, September 30, 1982.
  • ☛ Iowa Department of Public Safety Division of Criminal Investigation.
  • ☛ “Neighbors, relatives remember victim,” Clinton Herald, September 30, 1982.
  • ☛ “Police probe man’s death,” Clinton Herald, September 29, 1982.
  • ☛ U.S. Census.

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