A Virginia contractor has been convicted of raping and murdering a college administrator, leaving her dead in her bathtub, after she complained about the company’s work on her deck.
A jury found Thomas Clark guilty of first-degree murder, rape and abduction of 53-year-old Suzanne Fairman after deliberating Wednesday for an hour and 20 minutes, according to local station WTVR.
“There is a huge amount of relief,” Fairman’s son, Scott, said after the verdict. “I know these last two-and-a-half years have been dreadful for my family and my friends and everybody in our life and with this verdict I just feel like everybody can begin to heal.”
Fairman was found dead in the bathtub of her South Richmond home on May 9, 2019 after she failed to arrive in Florida for a planned trip to visit her mom over Mother’s Day weekend, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.
Prosecutors said Clark, 61, was a member of a landscaping crew that had stained Fairman’s back deck shortly before her death. She was unhappy with the work, which she thought had been sloppy, and had the crew return to redo the project.
Authorities identified Clark—who had a lengthy criminal record—as a possible suspect in the slaying after finding a bandana he left behind in the bathroom. His DNA was also found inside her and on the handle of a knife and glove left at the scene.
Investigators also found an iPhone cord that had been cut and left in the sink.
Prosecutors believe that Clark held Fairman at knife point, then bound, raped and strangled her to death.
She was discovered fully clothed, with her pants on inside out, in the bathtub of her home with the water running, according to the local paper.
Her son Scott took the stand during the trial to describe the final text message he had received from his mom, who he said he spoke to every day through phone or text messages.
She sent him a message at 6:46 p.m. on May 8, writing “That’s cool” in reference to a photo he had sent her of the setting sun from the Space Needle during a trip to Seattle, Washington.
According to Scott, his later texts would go unanswered.
After testifying, Scott remained in the court room throughout the trial, including during graphic testimony about his mom’s final moments. He told local station WTVR he chose to stay in the courtroom because he wanted to understand what his mother had gone through.
“Because I have gone the last two-and-a-half years with vague detail and because she was my mother and my best friend,” he said. “I just, I had to know. It was just something personal that I felt I needed to hear.”
While prosecutors argued that the evidence showed Clark could be the only person who carried out the crime, his defense attorney had argued that his cell phone data never showed him at her home on the night of May 8, according to local station WWBT.
Clark has a lengthy history of violence. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1988 for forcibly raping a woman in Alexandria, the local paper reports. He also pleaded guilty in 2005 to attempted robbery and received a 10-year sentence.
He’s scheduled to be sentenced for Fairman’s murder on Feb. 14, 2022.
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