The Deck Investigates - 11 of 15: Bad Seed

🎁Amazon Prime 📖Kindle Unlimited 🎧Audible Plus 🎵Amazon Music Unlimited 🌿iHerb 💰Binance

In any good investigation, you’re running down multiple leads at once.

It’s not just a time efficiency thing, it’s what helps you avoid getting tunnel vision.

So one of the times we met with Nelson, it wasn’t just Kenneth McCune Jr.’s name that

we brought up.

We also asked him about another name.

We said, hey, what do you know about John Paul Clark?

Did your office ever seriously look at him?

So John Paul Clark is the first time this name’s been brought up?

I mean, where did you get that?

I’ll take that as a no.

And I’m not just guessing.

It was actually one of the very few things the original investigator David Yocolet would

talk to us about.

He’d never heard the name John Paul Clark.

But what we had to say about him was interesting enough to make David scribble down his name

on a pad of paper that he brought with him.

John Clark’s name was there, in Darlene’s file, all the way back in August of 1984.

This is Episode 11, Bad Seed.

5 days after Darlene was taken from her home, an anonymous letter was written to the sheriff’s


Dear Sheriff,

John P. Clark of Park County, Indiana, allegedly assaulted and stabbed a woman at Rockville.

He since has escaped from the Park County Jail, last seen near Ladoga.

The Hulse murder sounds like the Rockville incident where John posed as needing to use

the phone.

The dark streaked hair could be dyed as John has dark hair.

I have met John twice.

A check with Park County could get you a picture and fingerprints.

Yours truly, Just Afraid.

It’s hard to tell what work investigators did back in 84 after they got this tip about

a violent fugitive on the run from Rockville, Indiana.

They would have received this letter when they were hot on Danny Bender’s trail, so

maybe it got overlooked.

But it piqued our interest enough to at least Google the guy.

If he escaped in Rockville before Darlene’s murder and was spotted near Ladoga, it meant

he was heading northeast out of Rockville.

It’s not a straight shot northeast from Rockville to Argus, but Ladoga is on the way.


If you take your time and aren’t bothered by taking the scenic route.

So who is this guy?

What came of him?

Where is he now?

John Paul Clark.

The top search result about John Paul Clark was a newspaper article written about him

from 2007.

The Herald-Bulletin headline reads,


Man explores his life in prison and beyond.

The article does a poor job of explaining the crime that got John sent to prison.

It mostly talks about how he found God while behind bars and how he’s lived a life dedicated

to youth ministry ever since he was freed.

But when we read the article, some things weren’t adding up.

The Herald-Bulletin reported that prior to the time John stabbed a woman at her house

in either 1983 or 1984, he hadn’t committed any other violent crimes.

But we had already found some old newspaper archives online that said otherwise.

The article also didn’t mention anything about him escaping from jail, or his motive,

or his victim, or really anything about the crime or the charges he faced.

Essentially, it was a puff piece that totally ignored his victims, which we weren’t into.

So Emily got a case number from the Indiana Department of Corrections and headed to Rockville,

which is like two and a half hours south of Argus.

Since John had been convicted, we knew there would be some court documents that might clear

up what exactly he did and where exactly he was in August 1984.

Emily’s first stop was the Park County Courthouse.

This is what I have.

So we’re looking for this calls number, which is what you gave me.

And then John Paul Clark.

There he is.

Attempted murder.

That’s it.

All right, let’s go take this upstairs.

Let’s see.

And what was it you were looking for?

Pretty much anything I can find.

Just let her look through it.

All right.

There you go.

There were hundreds of pages to thumb through, but we were basically searching for context

about John’s stabbing arrest, his subsequent escape, and any information about his whereabouts

when he was on the run.

We figured if John had any ties to Argus or Marshall County, they might be mentioned in

records from his previous crimes.

And here’s what we figured out.

John Paul Clark was arrested for attempted murder and attempted rape in April 1984 after

he went to a woman’s house in Rockville and stabbed her multiple times, almost killing


He was arrested for that crime the same night it happened and got booked into the Park County

Jail in Rockville.

He stayed behind bars awaiting trial for the next five months or so until August 5th, 1984

when John escaped.

According to police reports, John saw a door wide open in the jail and just left.

Then he walked to his parents’ house nearby, went inside, stole some loose change, and

then took their car, a 1974 green Dodge Colt station wagon.

And that was the first kind of, oh shit, moment that we had.

When you’re talking in coincidences, a man accused of attempted murder being on the run

in a green car 12 days before Darlene was killed, that’s an interesting coincidence.

But one small thing stuck out.

None of the car descriptions in the Hulse case say the suspect’s car was a station

wagon, just that it was a rusty 1970s old greenish car with a quote-unquote big trunk.

So could a station wagon look like a big trunk?

Some of the descriptions we’d come across had been muddy before, so we figured we should

just keep digging.

And to be honest, if John had escaped and fled in a red car, we might have stopped right


But there was something else that made us keep digging.

Because of an eyewitness account, police believed that 21-year-old John took his parents'

car and drove north from Rockville.

And in the documents Emily got, police wrote that they had reason to believe he had connections

quote-unquote up north because of a prior stint in juvie for a different crime that

John committed in 1981.

The sheriff at the time was quoted in the Park County Sentinel saying John probably

knew how to go into hiding thanks to his quote-unquote connections and that he was very street smart.

The sheriff also told area newspapers back then that he had reason to believe that John

might be meeting up with an old buddy and swapping his parents’ car for a motorcycle.

The documents stated that John was on the run and missing from August 5th to August

27th, 1984.

And that’s when a tip led to him being apprehended on a motorcycle in Oklahoma.

So that confirmed that he was in fact out of jail and still on the run when Darlene

was killed on August 17.

But the old reports didn’t say anything about how long John hung around Indiana before heading

out to Oklahoma.

Now because John was a juvenile for the first crime he committed, we weren’t able to obtain

those records.

So we couldn’t see if it was a similar crime or what slash who in that case could give

him ties to northern Indiana.

But Emily was able to look up the old investigators on both of the cases to see if they remembered

John ever being in Marshall County or near Argus while he was on the lam, or if they

knew who he’d gotten the motorcycle from.

But unfortunately, we didn’t get anywhere there because the former sheriff and ISP detective

who worked the case are both deceased.

So if we couldn’t talk to the people who investigated John, then there are two other

people we felt could give us the information we were looking for.

John himself and the woman he attacked.

Using the court documents we’d obtained, we looked that woman up on Facebook and sent

her a DM.

While we waited, we also called and emailed John Paul Clark.

We were hopeful at first that this redeemed man of God would be willing to talk with us.

You know, since he opened up to a reporter before.

But it wasn’t quite that easy.

His landline was disconnected and we didn’t get a reply via email.

But we did get a call back from the woman he nearly killed in 1984, Sherry Dodson Lasser.

And she was eager to talk.

It said in the paper that he had stabbed me one time, which was a lie.

He stabbed me 18 times.

In spring of 1984, Sherry was in her early 30s and newly divorced with two sons.

On the night of April 28th, Sherry had been at a girlfriend’s house and got home at around

10.30 or 11.

She poured herself a glass of wine and fell asleep in her recliner in the living room.

I got home probably around 10.30, 11, something like that.

And I poured myself a glass of wine and I sat down on my recliner and just sat there

crying and thinking, you know, about my mom.

And I fell asleep.

It was raining and storming out really bad that night.

And the next thing you know, I woke up to this pounding on my sliding glass door.

And I looked out the door.

I pulled my curtains back and I looked out the door.

And there was this kid there and he said, you know, can I use your phone?

And I said, I’m sorry, you know.

And he said, well, he said, and he says, please, it’s raining outside.

My car broke down and I just need to call my uncle.

So I let him in to use my phone.

So he tried using the phone and it would, he said it was busy.

So we sat down at my dining room table and we had, we had a cigarette and he tried it

again and he said, oh, it’s still busy.

And I said, well, what’s the number?

Let me try it for you.

And so when I did, it said, this number is out of service.

I said, this number is out of service.

I said, it’s probably because it’s the storm.

And I said, let me get you a garbage bag to put over your head.

I said, it’s not that far.

And so I got him the garbage bag and I gave it to him and I was walking to the door to

open it up for him and he grabbed me and he turned me around.

He says, you make a move or a sound and I will kill both your kids.

And I said, oh, please, I said, my kids are sleeping.

I’ll do anything you want, right?

So I can’t remember.

The first thing I said, though, was, oh, please, because the first thing he said to me was

you make a move or a sound and I’ll kill you.

And I said, oh, please, my mom’s dying.

I can’t take this.

Please don’t do this.

That’s what it was.

And he said, you either listen to me or I’m going to kill both your boys.

That’s what it was.

And so I looked him in the eyes and there were just red, all kinds of, he looked like

a monster.

He doesn’t look like the person that’s walking out there right now.

And so I just thought, you know what, he’s a kid, I’ll faint and he’ll run, right?

So I acted like I fainted.

And when I did that, he started cutting my clothes off.

So I thought, you know what, I’m going to get raped.

Maybe once that happens, he’ll run.

So when I did that, he started cutting my breasts.

So you can’t lay there when you’re getting cut.

So I came up with my knee and I caught him in the crotch and I shoved him and I jumped

up and I almost got out the door.

And he grabbed me and I grabbed, I can remember I grabbed the curtains and as he pulled me

back, I pulled the curtains down.

And he said, you try that again and your boys are dead.

And I said, oh please, let’s go somewhere.

I don’t want my boys to see this.

Let’s just go somewhere else.

I promise you, I won’t do anything if you’ll just let, let, let’s just go somewhere.

So he said, okay, and I was shocked.

So we get out by my car and we’re on the back of my car and I don’t remember how blood

got on my car.

I can remember there was spots of blood on my car and I took off running.

I broke loose and took off running.

Well, the neighbor’s yard, it was raining so bad and muddy and the neighbor’s yard goes

up a hill and I slipped and fell.

And when I did, he just started stabbing me and I rolled up in a ball like this and my

little dog got out of the house and was biting him.

And between the dog barking and I had actually, I saw the light, I saw I was gone and it was


I didn’t want to come back.

And I heard my neighbor yelling, what’s going on out there?

And they said that my knees shot out and I shoved him all the way off me.

And he took off running.

I remember there was an ambulance and I could just remember shaking like, so I was cold,

but I guess I was in shock.

And I said, just get me to the hospital.

So as we’re, as we’re going to the hospital and we’re, 36 has these winding roads and

they’re discussing like, uh, should we take her to Terre Haute?

The other one said, do you think she’ll make it that far?

She did make it.

And John Paul Clark was apprehended before the sun even came up.

A police officer testified that he went to John’s parents’ house right after Sherry’s

attack and found him in his childhood bedroom, still covered in Sherry’s blood.

He was arrested that night and was locked away until he escaped the Park County jail

a few months later.

Sherry moved to a different town when she was released from the hospital.

And when police called her a few months later to tell her John escaped, she was so shocked

that she actually passed out.

She thought he was coming to finish her off.

And she lived in absolute fear for her safety and the safety of her kids until he was arrested

three weeks later in Oklahoma.

John was clearly a violent man.

And just like in Darlene’s case, it seemed like he used a ruse to get into Sherry’s home.

But there weren’t many other standout connections between the crime he committed against Sherry

and what had been done to Darlene.

But then Sherry told us something that made our heads spin.

Sherry eventually learned more about John Paul Clark.

An Indiana state trooper said that he had been stalking her home since he got out on

probation for his prior crime.

Now on probation for what is the natural question?

Now like I said, those 1981 juvie records are sealed.

The only info we can see is that he was charged with attempted rape but took a plea deal for

battery and was sentenced on a C felony for battery.

But the memory of that sealed record was still fresh in the trooper’s mind when he talked

to Sherry.

He said that in 1981, John was arrested for beating and sexually assaulting a 17-year-old

girl with a fireplace poker.

You understand why our jaws dropped, right?

This was the first we had ever heard of John using the same type of weapon Darlene was

killed with.

But the problem was we needed proof.

We couldn’t responsibly report this if all we had was the word of a trooper who told

Sherry some 38 years ago.

So we went back through everything we had to see if we could verify it.

And sure enough, we found it.

The very day Darlene’s body was found, August 18, 1984, police in Marshall County got this

fax from former Park County Sheriff’s Deputy Jack Shannon.

Apparently other law enforcement officers who were familiar with John Paul Clark were

making the connection once they heard that Darlene had been killed with the same weapon

their newly escaped inmate was known to use.

But even with this fax and the anonymous letter signed from Just Afraid, I’m not sure law

enforcement in Argus were seeing the same thing.

I don’t know if these just slipped through the cracks or if they were ignored, but we

can’t find any documentation that John Clark was looked into at any point.

Even today, when we asked Prosecutor Chipman and retired Sergeant David Yokelet if they’d

ever looked into him, they didn’t even know his name.

There was one more tip in the Hulse case that we found regarding John Clark, and it was

from the ISP trooper who had worked his case, a guy named Dan Clevenger.

He called police in Marshall County on August 20th, 1984, to advise them, quote,

subject escaped from Park County Jail two weeks ago, was there for attempted rape, stabbed

victim 18 times, end quote.

The end of the handwritten tip said Clevenger would check to see if John has any connections

to Argus.

So either he checked and there wasn’t any documentation of his findings or there wasn’t

anything worth following up about.

Sherry doesn’t know where John went or what he did while he was a fugitive for those three


So we tried calling the former prosecutor and John’s attorney from back in the 80s,

who are surprisingly both still practicing law today.

His former defense attorney, Jim Bruner, remembered representing John and remembered him escaping


And he represented him when he was extradited back to Indiana.

You don’t remember him saying where he went during those two or three weeks?

I don’t remember that.

I have no recollection of that at all.

Former Park County prosecutor Jim Hanner is the one that sent John to prison, and he feels

he deserved hard time.

Wherever John was, it seems only John knows.

There isn’t anything we’ve been able to find yet that places him in Argus, but we did find

a possible connection, albeit a very loose connection to the town.

John served time in the same juvenile facility as a man named Bill Swihart, whose grandma

was a longtime Argus local.

When we dug even deeper, we actually found a few leads in the Hulse case involving Bill

and his grandma.

Someone must have known Bill had a violent history.

The tip says Bill, quote, did time at youth center for cutting someone up, end quote.

And guess what?

The tip also says Bill’s grandma had an old green car.

Emily called Bill and left him a few voicemails along with one of his relatives, but we never

heard back.

We even tried getting the Indiana DOC to tell us if John and Bill had been cellmates in

Plainfield, but no luck.

So, so far, that is the only potential tie we could find that John might have had to

Marshall County.

Something I keep coming back to, though, is the car.

Even today, Marie is certain that the suspect’s car was not a station wagon.

Could John have met up with his old buddy Bill at his grandma’s in Argus and taken her

green car and then swapped it out for a motorcycle that he was found with in Oklahoma?

We have to preface this with a lot of what ifs and maybes and could have been possibles

to get A and B to connect.

But then, just when it feels like a stretch, we find things like this.

It’s an anonymous letter written to Marshall County police on October 11th, 1984.

Dear sir, this probably isn’t anything, but I thought I would mention if in some way it

might bring a clue to your murder case.

On Saturday, about 9 o’clock, don’t know the date, but it would have been Saturday

morning after you brought the guys back from Colorado.

A station wagon passed me at a great speed.

There was a woman driving, and two men in the front seat.

I noticed their license plates was out-of-state plates.

I could not see the state, but the plates were a dark color.

Dark blue, I think.

It went south and turned onto 19th Road.

What seemed so funny was that it turned into a lane that goes back into a cornfield right

to the east of Clarence Ault’s house, and disappeared over the hill.

It didn’t bother me too much at the time, because I thought it was someone that Ault’s

knew, yet I wondered why they didn’t go into the drive to their house.

There about half an hour later, I saw a man on a small motorcycle going north on Fur Road.

The morning was cloudy and no sun.

This man had on a helmet, dark sunglasses, and a jacket.

I don’t know if any of this has anything to do with your case or not, but it seemed

a little strange.

Not wanting to be involved, I can’t sign my name.

The fact that John Clark swapped a green station wagon for a motorcycle in northern Indiana

before fleeing the state, and the fact that this witness thinks they saw a suspect coming

in a station wagon and leaving on a motorcycle could be a total coincidence.

There have been a lot of those, right?

So we got to the point where the only thing left to do was to ask John where he was on

August 17th, 1984.

After not receiving any response to two emails last fall, Emily tried calling the church

John was affiliated with, but she got no answer there either.

So she grabbed our photographer Jake and set out to see if they could track this guy


He still lives in Indiana.

Now nobody was at his church, and the HR department at the university that he used to work for

said that the last time John was on the payroll was over a decade ago, but they did have an

address on file.

So Emily and Jake headed there.

If no one answers, I’m going to slip my card and my note in the mailbox.




Are you John?

My name’s Emily.

I’m a journalist.

Get the fuck out of here.

You’re just on a-

You need to read the police reports.

Look, I ain’t got nothing to do with anything else.

You need to leave people alone.

I just want to know.

I want to cross you off the list.

I have a long list.

You’re one of many people.

Read the police reports.

They’ll tell you everything you need to know.

I have all of that.

I wasn’t there.


I just want to know where you were between those dates.

You don’t need to know anything.

Leave me alone.

Do you remember where you went after Park County?

If you bother me, I’m going to call the police on you.

And if you don’t cease and desist, you’ll get a letter from an attorney.

So leave me alone.

Thank you.

I got nothing to do with anything.

I don’t even know why you got my name, why you came to my house, my address.

You’re like stalking me.

I want to know how you got my information, how you found out everything where I live at,

how you got my email address.

The internet.

You’re stalking me.

I’m not.

Your name is in the police reports, and you’re one of many people that I’m reaching out to.

Look, there’s no way I didn’t even know where you were at or where this thing happened at or anything.

And the police know where I was at.

So you need to leave people alone.

So you were never in Argus?

I don’t even know where that’s at.

Okay, thank you.

John was angry.

And I understand being mad about a reporter showing up at your door, bringing up your criminal history from the mid-’80s.

But two emails and a doorknock being stalking?

So he’d obviously gotten the emails and knew exactly why Emily was there, but he did not want to talk about it.

We were truly hoping he could just recall the route that he traveled after his jailbreak so we could move on.

But then he said something that sort of had the opposite effect.

Look, I’ll say this to you so you get this right.

I left on the 5th of August.

That’s a Sunday night.

Within three hours, my car was parked in the northern part of Indiana.

You know where it was at?

I don’t.

It was in northern Indiana, and it never moved until my dad got it.

So if this car was supposed to be involved in some crime, why in the fuck did they let my parents go pick it up?

Why in the fuck would the cops let anybody do that shit?

Where did he pick it up?

Leave me the fuck alone!

Jake was watching this interaction from the car, per Emily’s request.

She figured it was better to have a driver at the ready, but Jake said that John’s body language was aggressive.

He was close to interjecting when Emily hurried back to the car.

Did you hear him?

He’s angry.

He looked very angry.

Let’s get out of here.

He says his car, he left the car in northern Indiana.

That’s what he was yelling at you?

He told me to leave him the fuck alone.

Yeah, I kind of gathered that too.


Yeah, better than him slamming the door in my face.

You got something.


Sometimes we’re the scapegoats in these situations.

We’re out looking for the truth for Darlene and her family,

and when we go looking for answers that police should have tried to track down decades ago,

we’re the ones that get cussed at.

So that was obviously all we were going to get out of John.

After his release in 2002, John has never been convicted of another violent crime, as far as we know.

John emailed us a few weeks after Emily’s visit, threatening to sue.

So I’ll say this.

We don’t know if John had anything to do with Darlene’s murder,

and police never looked into him, so he’s never been named a suspect or even a person of interest.

But based on our very pleasant conversation with the maybe ex-pastor whose life was once labeled redeemed,

we were unable to mark him off our list,

because he couldn’t or wouldn’t say where he was on August 17th, 1984.

If anyone is listening who knows more about where John’s car was in northern Indiana

or what he was up to the day Darlene died, we would love to hear from you.

We’d also love to talk to the young woman who survived John’s 1981 attack,

if that’s something she’d be comfortable with.

But until then, there’s someone else that we have to consider.

He cannot be ruled out as a suspect.

When you look at means, motive, and method, and opportunity,

he’s the guy who stands up above everyone else.

That’s next in Episode 12, P.I.’s Best Lead.

You can listen to that right now.