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From the archives: 30 years ago, 'America's Most Wanted' murderer was found in Brandermill

From the archives: 30 years ago, 'America's Most Wanted' murderer was found in Brandermill

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Editor's note: This article originally ran in The Richmond News Leader on June 5, 1989. 

John Walsh, host of "America's Most Wanted," was elated.

Appearing on Fox Broadcasting Co.'s weekly television crime program last night, Walsh told viewers, "John List is New Jersey's most infamous accused murderer. Police say he executed five members of his family 18 years ago. But your tips captured him on Thursday."

The FBI says List has been living as Robert P. Clark, a 63-year-old Richmond-area accountant who had resided in Brandermill with his wife, Delores, since August 1988. The FBI also says List is the man who killed his former wife, their three children and his mother almost two decades ago at the family's 19-room mansion in Westfield, N.J. Authorities had been looking for List ever since.

He was arrested Thursday by federal agents at his Henrico County office, and Walsh boasted to millions of viewers last night that it was a tip to "America's Most Wanted" that led to the arrest.

"Many cops considered it an unsolvable crime," Walsh said. "Until your tips led to the capture of New Jersey's most notorious accused murder."

The arrest shocked Clark's wife, Delores, who told The Richmond News Leader last week that she found it "impossible to believe."

Mrs. Clark, who has made only one statement to the media, has remained out of sight since her husband's arrest. She is out of the city and probably will remain so, at least for several more days, said David P. Baugh, the lawyer who represents List.

Baugh said yesterday that he regards it as an accomplishment "to have kept her face off the front pages." No reporters have even seen her, he said. However, Mrs. Clark has received several offers of money for interviews, Baugh and Clark's closest Richmond-area friend say.

People magazine and National Enquirer are among publications seeking interviews with Mrs. Clark, the friend here said.

"So far, she has acquiesced to my counsel" and refused to grant the interviews, Baugh said.

The friend added that he has been inundated with requests from various news organizations, including The Associated Press, People magazine and publications in New York and Washington.

Baugh said another lawyer asked him to represent Clark on the federal fugitive charge here because he is a former federal prosecutor and is familiar with the law on the subject.

His role probably will be limited, Baugh said. "My job will be to minimize any negative impact on his case until I can hand him off to a New Jersey lawyer," he added.

Because of the attorney-client privilege and his desire to keep a lid on publicity, Baugh would not talk about any of his conversations with the Clarks or characterize their state of mind.

Nearly half of last night's 30-minute "America's Most Wanted" show was devoted to List's capture, and Walsh made it clear who was responsible for his arrest.

"More than 200 viewers called with substantial leads," Walsh said. "One caller gave us List's street address in Midlothian, Va. That's where List was living . . . with his second wife."

The show aired several hours after parishioners of the church the Clarks attended heard their pastor say, "If God heals broken people, why not Bob and Delores?"

The Rev. Joseph E. Vought added that even those Jesus healed eventually died.

Yesterday's two Sunday services were the first for the 260-member congregation since Clark's arrest. Few church members said they knew Clark, but several said they had seen him.

Most followed Mr. Vought's advice that they should be careful what they say to reporters. "People's lives are hanging in the balance here," the pastor said.

In a brief message before his sermon, Mr. Vought said, "We are continuing to minister to Bob and Delores Clark. We pray that falsehood and sensationalism will be replaced by truth and passion."

On last night's television show, Walsh made much of the fact that police believe the man they had been seeking for nearly 18 years was Clark.

"John List was the kind of man who brought his wife fresh flowers every day," Walsh said. "He drove the elderly to church on Sundays, and one of his favorite TV shows was `America's Most Wanted,' " Walsh said.

One of Clark's closest neighbors, Joseph D. Stefano, has said Clark told him about the crime show. Stefano said he frequently watches the show but didn't see the May 21 segment about List.

Sandra K. Silberman, an employee of Maddrea, Joyner, Kirkham & Woody, where Clark had been employed as a staff accountant since Feb. 2, 1988, told The Richmond News Leader on the day Clark was arrested that he was very devoted to his wife and would call her daily from work.

"A lot of time I would hold him up to my husband as a model, because of what I heard him say to his wife on the phone," Mrs. Silberman said.

In an interview for last night's show, Mrs. Silberman said Clark "seemed to be very much in love with her. Because he would talk to her on the phone at least once a day, always (say) 'Dear' and 'Darling,' and (such things) as,

'Did you take a nap?' and 'Are you feeling well?,' 'Make sure you eat.' He would always sign off with, 'I love you.' "

The show also featured Denver resident Wanda R. Flanery, who lived next door to Mrs. Clark in a red-brick condominum she bought about the time she married Robert Clark.

Authorities believe Clark moved to Denver about 1975. He met his second wife through a church function, and the couple married in November 1985.

In an article that first appeared in the Denver Post, Mrs. Flanery said she had watched the "America's Most Wanted" segment May 21 about List. She recognized the man as her former neighbor, Bob Clark.

She told her son-in-law, Randy Mitchell, to call the televised telephone number to report Clark, she said.

"I got the chills," Mrs. Clark said in an interview with the Denver Post. "I said, 'That's Bob.' My children said, 'Yes, it is.' "

Mrs. Flanery said she earlier had suspected that Clark might be the man authorities were seeking.

She said she had seen an article about the fugitive in a tabloid newspaper that published a sketch of what the man might look like today.

She said she read the article to Mrs. Clark "and showed her the picture and said, 'This is your husband, Bob.' "

Mrs. Clark couldn't believe it was her husband, or didn't want to believe it, Mrs. Flanery said.

In Denver, List had joined St. Paul's Lutheran Church, "where he gave no hint of the brutal crimes police say he left behind," Walsh said. "He lived an anonymous lifestyle as a church-going accountant."

The church's pastor, the Rev. Robert A. West, said, "We found out his area was finance, so he began to serve on the finance committee and then eventually was elected to the church counsel and then served two years, 1984-85, as treasurer of the congregation."

Last night, Walsh concluded the show by raising a question that has been on the minds of many: "Why did John List murder his family?

"In a letter to his minister, List claimed to be saving them from moral decay. Others say he was simply broke and desperate. The real story is likely to unfold when List stands trial for murder."

— John List died from complications related to pneumonia in 2008 at a N.J. medical center while in prison custody.


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