A 25-year-old man will serve 25 years behind bars for a botched 2007 robbery which left a storekeeper dead.
Gary Clarke was sentenced today in the to 40 years in prison, suspended after 25 years, with five years of probation. During the probationary period, Clarke must seek employment and undergo substance abuse screening and treatment.
Clarke was charged with murder, murder during the commission of a felony, and first-degree robbery in the death of 46-year-old Jared Silva. Silva, the owner of Jared’s Packy on Ocean Ave., was shot in the head after leaving the store on Oct. 12, 2007. Clarke pleaded guilty on May 16 to first-degree manslaughter with a firearm.
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Clarke was crouching over Silva when police arrived, and said he saw two men attack Silva. Police found Clarke’s phone, which he said he had lost during the night, near Silva’s body. Cosmo Frieson, Clarke’s 24-year-old co-defendant, said he and Clarke tried to rob Silva and that Clarke shot Silva after the storekeeper fought back and called for help. Clarke later gave a statement saying the gun, which had been stolen from a vehicle, went off by accident during a struggle.
Frieson was charged with murder in the commission of a felony and first-degree robbery, but pleaded guilty in June of 2009 to the robbery charge. The plea included an agreement that he would give evidence against Clarke at trial.
During Clarke’s first trial in January of 2011, the defense said several witnesses had changed their testimony from that first given to police and suggested that Frieson or several other witnesses could have killed Silva. The trial , with jurors 11-1 in favor of acquittal on the murder charge and 9-3 in favor of conviction on the robbery and murder in the commission of a felony charges.
State’s Attorney Michael Regan acknowledged that uncooperative witnesses hampered the first trial and would have presented difficulties in the second. He said one key witness, , absconded prior to the second trial and remains at large with a warrant out for his arrest. Gomez testified at the first trial that Clarke asked to borrow his sweatshirt and told him to tell police that they had been together at the time of the shooting.
Regan said , who testified that Clarke came to his house to retrieve a weapon brought there by Frieson after the shooting, also refused to testify at the second trial. He also said that Smith had been a “horrible witness” whose credibility was easily challenged.
Regan said Clarke was initially unaware that he could enter a plea to a lesser charge, an action he decided to take shortly after the start of the second trial. Regan said he expected that the sentence would not fully satisfy Silva’s family, but he felt that it was a proper action given Clarke’s lack of a criminal record as well as the failure of the first trial to secure a conviction.
A loss to the community
“The victim in this case was totally innocent,” said Regan. “Mr. Silva was beloved by his family, by his friends, his neighbors, his neighbors in the Squire Street area.”
Both Dorothy Silva, Jared’s mother, and Nancy Donovan, Jared’s sister, thanked the prosecutor’s office for their compassion and work in the case. They said Jared’s death represented a loss to the neighborhood.
“This was a man who went out of his way to connect with people, to make them feel special,” said Nancy.
Donovan said the death had a devastating effect on Dorothy, as her husband had died 10 months prior to the shooting and Jared had been looking after her. She said Jared used his store to interact with the neighborhood, loaning money to those who needed it and giving advice.
Dorothy said she would never forget the night police officers told her of her son’s death. She said it also represents a loss for Clarke’s family.
“I hope that he somehow emerges from this a better man,” she said.
Jeremiah Donovan, Clarke’s defense attorney, read excerpts from the statement Clarke gave as part of his plea. Clarke expressed regret for his actions, saying he believed Silva was beloved in the neighborhood and that the shooting made neighbors feel less safe.
“They intended that the gun would be a prop,” said Donovan. “They never intended to use it…Gary never had any intention to take a life.”
“Another senseless, sad scenario”
Judge Patrick J. Clifford, in approving the sentence, said the case represents the harm that can be done when irresponsible people use firearms. He questioned why the gun was loaded if Clarke and Frieson only intended to threaten Silva with it.
“It’s another senseless, sad scenario, destroying an innocent individual and everyone’s set of security,” said Clifford.
Clarke’s plea also dismisses unrelated charges of first-degree sexual assault, first-degree unlawful restraint, and third-degree assault. Clarke was accused of raping and assaulting a 42-year-old woman in June of 2007, and investigators charged him after determining that his DNA matched that of evidence taken after the crime and the woman identified him from a photo lineup.
Regan said the woman has not contacted the State’s Attorney’s Office since the crime, and that efforts to call her have been unsuccessful.
Frieson faces up to 20 years in prison on the robbery charge. His next scheduled court date is on Tuesday, but will not include sentencing. Clifford said the Frieson pleaded before a different judge and requested an updated pre-sentencing report before Frieson’s prison term is set.