The Web      Powered by
powered by Yahoo!


Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With Family of Janice Clark Smith

Aired December 7, 2004 - 21:00   ET


NANCY GRACE, GUEST HOST: Tonight, a prime time exclusive. Why did a mother of three gun down her own father, dead in cold blood. And why does her whole family support her. Tonight the family of Janice Clark Smith, speaks out and tells us why. With shocking stories of over 40 years of sexual assault and beatings and emotional abuse.

Tonight, Janice Clark Smith's two sisters, Sherri Thornburg and Glenda Evans, both testified they wanted to kill their father themselves. And their mother, Martha Clark, why did she let herself and her innocent children live so long, decades, with a child abuser?

Their story and the story of the sister they say finally brought them peace, through murder. Next, in a prime time exclusive all on LARRY KING LIVE.


GRACE: Welcome to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Nancy Grace from Court TV, in for Larry tonight. Tonight, an incredible story of a woman who walked into her father's home and opened fire. Even when the gun jammed, she continued to shoot. The question is why a mother of three children would take her life into her own hands in order to kill her own father.

Again, I'm Nancy Grace from Court TV, in for Larry tonight, and I want to thank you for being with us.

Here in the studio with us in New York, the family of Janice Clark Smith. And first I want to go to Glenda the sister of Janice.

Glenda, my question is what brought this on?

What brought on feeling so strong that a grown woman, 50-years- old, would march into her father's house and shoot him dead in cold blood?

GLENDA EVANS, SISTER OF JANICE CLARK SMITH: He was a very mean and abusive man all of our life. And he abused us, always told us we were no good, putting us down, hitting us, beating my mom, my other siblings, my brothers. He was just a horrible man.

GRACE: Glenda, when you first heard the news that your sister, a mother of three, had murdered her father in cold blood -- he was unarmed, right?

What was your reaction?

EVANS: I couldn't believe she was the one that done it. I would have thought it would have been one of my other brothers or sisters.


EVANS: Janice was just always so scared of him.

GRACE: I want to talk to you about growing up in the home with an allegedly abusive father. You said that he yelled at you, that he hit you. Does that deserve the death penalty?

EVANS: He was -- he done this for many years, many years. He'd pull curlers out of your hair, pull earrings out of your hair, rip your clothes off because he didn't like what you were wearing. And he done my mom the same way right in front of all of us.

GRACE: Glenda, I think that you are skirting the issue. There was sex abuse, wasn't there?

EVANS: Yes, there was.

GRACE: What is your first recollection of your father abusing you in that way?

EVANS: His hands on you, all over you. His hands. I hated his hands.

GRACE: How old were you at that time?

EVANS: Ever since I can remember.

GRACE: What would you do as a child with a father that was molesting you? I mean, I'm here looking at you, judging your credibility. And you seem very straightforward.

How did you deal with that as a child, being molested?

EVANS: You dealt with it the best way you could then. You had no help back then. You'd just run and hide and get away from him as fast as you could or...

GRACE: Did you ever tell your mother?

EVANS: Yes, my woman would come in and pull him off of us and make him go back in the other room and sit down when he would bust in our rooms at night. And my brothers would defend us. And you know, we just done whatever we could.

GRACE: Also with us here in the New York studio, another sister of Janice Clark, Sherry.

Sherri, what happened in your youth growing up? SHERRI THORNBURG, SISTER OF JANICE CLARK SMITH: My earliest recollection of my father being mean or abusive was whenever I was about 3 and my little sister, older sister then, Donna, 5, she was diagnosed with leukemia at the time. She passed away when she was 6. But he had got mad at my mother for something and held me and my sister down and pulled out a pocket knife and cut our hair off because he was mad at her.

GRACE: That's the first thing you recall, the first instance of abuse?

Were you sexually abused?

THORNBURG: Yes. He'd hold you down and feel all over you, in between your legs, on your breasts, everywhere.

GRACE: Top and bottom?


GRACE: When would this occur, at night?

THORNBURG: At any time. He would barge in your room. I used to boarder my door up when I was older, after they left home. Because I boarded the door up.

GRACE: With what?


GRACE: You know, that's a heck of a way to live, having to as a child put a chair up against your door to keep your father out.

THORNBURG: I kept a pool stick by my bed also. I used to threaten him all the time that I was a minor, if he ever laid a hand on me I'd put him under the jail. And when I became 17, I was getting ready to turn 18, he said, you're not going to be a minor very long. Your time's coming.

GRACE: And what did he mean by that?

THORNBURG: I just took it as a threat, that I was going to be dead if I stayed there. So I left.

GRACE: How old were you when you left the home?

THORNBURG: Seventeen.

GRACE: Where'd you go?

THORNBURG: I went and moved in with my boyfriend.

GRACE: Mm-hmm. Did you ever tell your mother?

THORNBURG: She knew. She would -- what my mother would do is, like whenever that happened with me and Donna, she'd come over there and hit him with something, she would turn it on her, turn the beating on her or abuse on her. He would take a shotgun to my mom's head and dare us to cry or he'd kill her.

GRACE: Mrs. Clark, when you hear your daughters describe years of child molestation and beatings and abuse by your husband, how does it make you feel?

MARTHA CLARK, MOTHER OF JANICE CLARK SMITH: Now, looking back, it makes me feel like I'm the one should have shot him and I'm the one should be in prison. I should -- I should have took him out of that situation. But you've got to understand, I've always said nobody but me and my children knew, and like when you were talking with him, it sounded like I'm just standing on the sidelines, I don't know. We know all this is going on. And from the very beginning we had to protect and look out for one another. And we knew that. He would come in your room anytime, any of us, grab you by the arm or the leg, drag you down the hall, and through the house. And you never knew which one was going to be attacked that night or what it was going to be about. Just something he thought up.

GRACE: Did you ever go to police?

CLARK: The police had been called out to our house many times, but at that time the laws were unless they saw something happening they couldn't do anything.

GRACE: You know, the reality is -- also here in the studio with me is Janice Clark's defense lawyer, public defender Harry Dest. Harry, the reality is the law has not changed when it comes to child molestation. Those laws were in effect for the past 50 years. What has changed is the way it is enforced. Now, why wasn't this man put behind bars? Right now if these ladies are to be believed, which I do believe them, there are multiple acts of serious sexual abuse on a child.

HARRY DEST, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR JANICE CLARK SMITH: That's true. He should have been placed in jail, many years ago. The level of abuse in this case is horrific, Nancy. I've been a public defender, defense lawyer, for 14 years, and I've never seen a case where a man not only beat his children but beat his wife, held shotguns to -- her head, his wife's head and his children's head. Also, he sexually abused not only his daughter but his own granddaughter. Yes, he should have been in jail a long time ago.

GRACE: What I don't understand is why the local authorities -- the mother says she called the police, they came to the home. Why didn't he go to jail for 20 years? I don't understand it. Two and two is equaling five tonight.

DEST: Well, you do know that in 1987 he was convicted of a lewd act on a minor, which is a sexual molestation charge in South Carolina.

GRACE: 1987, but what year did your abuse begin?

How old were you? THORNBURG: Three

GRACE: Which would have been back, what, in the '70s?


GRACE: '68.

CLARK: But we didn't perceive that. I guess it was our ignorance as sexual abuse because they weren't actually...

GRACE: Intercourse?


GRACE: I've got a question for you...

CLARK: It was just like -- and he always would say, oh, I was just loving you. Stuff like that.

EVANS: He always made excuses that...

GRACE: Loving you?


EVANS: Yes. That's not what he was doing.

GRACE: You know, I've noticed in child molestation cases that I've prosecuted...

CLARK: It wasn't that we denied it.

GRACE: Yes. Just didn't think that it rose to sex abuse?

THORNBURG: It was such a part of your life, and...

EVANS: You got used to it.

THORNBURG: You got used to it. Plus he would...


CLARK: It was just a way of life for us.

GRACE: He would what?

THORNBURG: He would threaten you, you know. Like whenever he would beat us, for instance, he'd beat you in the head and say, I can beat you where even if you call the police they're not going to believe you, because I can do it where there's not going to be any marks on you. And I've got the judge and the jury under me.

GRACE: We are headed to break. But tonight, an incredible story, almost unbelievable, of decades of sexual and physical abuse until ultimately a mother of three, a 50-year-old woman, walked into her father's home and shot him to death. Today she's behind bars. Stay with us.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was no hedging when it came to telling police and a judge how she killed her father, George Clark.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She went over there, and it was premeditated. She wrote about it, thought about it.



GRACE: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Nancy Grace from Court TV, in for Larry tonight. I want to thank you for being with us. An incredible story tonight of decades of child molestation, sexual and physical abuse that went unchecked by law enforcement, and it ended in a murder. We are bringing you the story of a South Carolina family, their father now dead, gunned down at age 73 by his own daughter, a mother of three.

Back to the story. Back to the childhood. I was saying that in prosecuting child molestation cases, I often see that one child is targeted more than the others, for whatever reason. And I'm suspecting that it was Janice. What about it, Glenda?

EVANS: Yes, it was. He was harder on her and a lot meaner to her. She couldn't walk in the room that he wasn't on her. He hated her. He has ever since she was born. He didn't want any girls. He did not want any girls.

CLARK: Let me tell you. When Janice was born, we already had two boys, and we had had two girls that were born prematurely and died. And I think he was glad that they died, looking back at it now. But when she was born, he claimed that she didn't belong to him. God wasn't supposed to let him have girls. He wasn't even looking at her -- look at her or hold her or anything for a while. Because he said God wasn't supposed to let him have girls. Men that had girls, it was because they were weak, or something they had done in their past they were being punished for it, if they had girls. So he denied her for a while.

GRACE: Well, one thing that struck me as I was reading about your story is that when she was a little girl, if she wet the bed he would make her take kerosene. Is that true?

CLARK: And he wet the bed himself until he was grown. But whenever one of our children wet the bed, he claimed that they were lazy, too lazy to get up, go to the bathroom.

GRACE: I've never heard of anyone making a child drink kerosene. Do you recall that?

THORNBURG: That was a...

CLARK: Old-time remedy that his mother had that they used for about everything, to cure everything.

EVANS: He had his own remedies for everything.

GRACE: I want to go back to the theory of Janice being the one he singled out. Now, you know one in four girls in this country, the United States of America, is molested, one in four. Do you think that he had full-blown sex with Janice as a child?

EVANS: I don't know. Only Janice could answer that.

CLARK: And if she does -- she does -- I don't think she remembers it, if he did. But -- or she's never talked about it.

GRACE: I mean, something made her go and shoot him dead. I mean, we're missing something here.

EVANS: She's very protective of my mother. My mother's got cancer.

THORNBURG: She was diagnosed with terminal cancer in April of 2003.


THORNBURG: And we had to take her out of the home twice. And this was very recent. After -- that was one of the times she was staying at my niece's.


GRACE: Now, were you still living in the home with him?


CLARK: I was living there, but when he would get drunk, they would take me to live with -- somewhere else.

GRACE: Did you ever think of divorce?

CLARK: Yes, I did. But by the time I thought about -- I had so much invested in that marriage and the house and everything. And it's hard to explain when you're in a situation like that. You just keep thinking from one day to the next things will get better, things will get better. And years have passed, and you realize, you know, you're still here, and by the time I realized I needed to get out I had a house full of kids. I didn't have anywhere to go. I didn't have any job training. I didn't have any -- a car. I couldn't drive. He wouldn't let me do any of those things.

And so I just decided that the best thing I could do, since we did have a roof over our heads, was to stay and do the best I could do until I got able to get me a job and do better. And we've just protect one another, and that's what we did.

GRACE: The location of the home, Harry. Describe. DEST: It's out in the middle of a very rural section of York County, South Carolina. I think, Nancy, if you could go to that home and see where it's located, and see the surroundings, you would have a better understanding of how all these horrific acts could take place and no one knew anything about it. I mean, it's a very desolate area. They're out there in the middle of nowhere, with little help, little contact with people, and so you can see how something like this could occur.


GRACE: Go ahead.

THORNBURG: Also, we didn't have a phone, a telephone a lot of times.

CLARK: For a long time.

THORNBURG: If we did, he would jerk it out of the wall.

EVANS: Yeah, he would cut the cord on you in a minute.

THORNBURG: He would cut the cord or jerk it.

GRACE: What would set him off, Glenda, or would it be...

EVANS: Anything. Anything.

GRACE: Like what?

EVANS: It could be something stupid. Because you didn't eat bread with your meal.

CLARK: Something he thought up.

EVANS: Anything that he didn't think that was right.


EVANS: Because you had on shorts and not a dress three inches below your knees. Anything like that. Any of his beliefs.

THORNBURG: All of a sudden something would pop in his head. And when he'd come barging in on you, he would be talking out of his head about something you wouldn't even know what he was mad about. You couldn't even figure out what he was talking about.

GRACE: Now, these incidents of beating and molestation would take place at any time of the day or night?

EVANS: Mm-hmm.


GRACE: Now, the incident where he held your girls down and cut their hair off with a pocket knife, what brought that on? CLARK: Because I had done something to the two older girls' hair.

GRACE: A permanent?

CLARK: And he thought he would get back at me.

GRACE: What did you do to their hair?

CLARK: I curled their hair for Easter.

GRACE: So he chopped their hair off with a knife?

CLARK: To get back at me.

DEST: Nancy, may I say something about that incident?


DEST: Because we did present that at the hearing. One thing people need to understand, that the other daughter whose hair was cut off was a 5-year-old girl who was dying of leukemia at the time.

CLARK: She died at 6. She died about a year later.

DEST: So that shows you what type of man George Clark was.

CLARK: And her begging him all the time not to and crying.

GRACE: Did the community know what was going on?

CLARK: You don't tell all these things. It's just something that you're ashamed for people to know that's how you have to live.

THORNBURG: People...

CLARK: They knew some of it, but they didn't know what we had to live with day in and day out.

THORNBURG: You say it's one in four. I believe it's higher than that. Because people -- there's many people out there that haven't even come forward. Even -- I've received multitudes of e-mails from people that are telling their story about molestation and sex abuse and, you know, mental and physical that have never even told their story. So that statistic is grossly...

GRACE: Underreported?


GRACE: Glenda.

EVANS: Think of people that don't tell. And that's what they -- they instill in you all your life, is do not tell.

GRACE: Well, I tell you, what I just don't understand is that police were called to the home earlier on and nothing was done. The abuse continued. And now adult women are left with memories of child molestation, abuse, beatings they'll never get out from under. Stay with us.


GRACE: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Nancy Grace from Court TV, in for Larry tonight.

Thank you for being with us. What a story. A sad story that ended in the shooting death of a 73-year-old man. Not by an unknown assailant, not a mugger or a robber, but by his own 50-year-old daughter. She shot the gun even after it jammed to make sure he was dead. We're bringing you a story out of South Carolina. And here in the studio with me, the family of Janice Clark Smith, now behind bars, for the shooting death of her father, 73-year-old George Clark.

You were telling me that you tried to tell your teachers and counselors.

THORNBURG: I did when I was in school. From about 13 -- from junior high up to through high school.

GRACE: What did you tell them?

THORNBURG: I told them about how my father was -- especially if I had to go because I wasn't doing too well in school, they'd ask me why I didn't get any sleep last night? Well, why didn't you get any sleep last night? And I'd tell them why I didn't get any sleep.

GRACE: What -- what would you tell them?

THORNBURG: My daddy was drinking, he barge in my door, I had to fight him off all night.

GRACE: So nobody ever suggested for you to leave or for him to be reported to police?

CLARK: My preacher once did, but he had 10 kids of his own, and I couldn't move in with him with my six.

EVANS: We tried to have him committed one time also.

GRACE: What happened?

EVANS: They said he was just a drunk. They didn't have room for drunks down there.

THORNBURG: And that all he wanted was just to be in -- be the boss.

GRACE: Now, when the police would come to the home, would you tell them about the sex abuse?

CLARK: No. GRACE: Well, then of course they didn't put him behind bars if you didn't tell them.

CLARK: Like I said before, we didn't perceive that as sexual abuse.

EVANS: It wasn't called sexual abuse.

CLARK: It wasn't. It was an ignorance.

THORNBURG: We do now. We do now.

CLARK: Now we that is.


EVANS: We didn't know any better. We were dumb to that.

GRACE: When you look back at all of these years of your life that was a struggle with this man, how do you feel looking back on it?

CLARK: I feel horrible about it now. But then it was just a way of life for us.

GRACE: Survival.

CLARK: Survival.

GRACE: I want to fast-forward to the night -- the day of the shooting. What happened, Glenda?

EVANS: I think she finally just -- she got to thinking because we had to take my mother out of the home, and the more Janice thought about that...

GRACE: Because of -- why did you have to take your mom out of the home?

EVANS: Because he was drunk and my mom was on her deathbed. She couldn't do anything for herself. My daddy was hiding her medicine. He wouldn't -- he wouldn't let us come and take care of her. He was starting an argument with any one of us that tried to come in and take care of her. Didn't want us there. He wanted to be the one to -- we couldn't even talk to her on the phone. He would listen in on the conversations and start an argument with her to make her get off the phone with us. Anything he could to keep us away from there. And that's what he was doing to Janice.

GRACE: You know, from reading the story, I feel very strongly that he may have abused Janice's daughter and that -- that was the final straw.

EVANS: No. I don't think that -- her mother was the final straw. Because mother was dying with cancer, and mother was all we ever had. And he wouldn't let us take care of her and see her and visit with her. GRACE: Sherri.

CLARK: She was the one that called the police when he molested her daughter. You've got to understand, her two oldest children, her son and her daughter, were adopted because she couldn't take care of them. Her brother, my son, Wayne, adopted the son. My husband's sister Norma adopted the daughter. She was visiting at our house, the daughter, Janice's daughter that had been adopted, and that's when it happened, sometime during the night.

GRACE: Well, I'm really surprised that knowing all this that a young girl would be permitted to stay in the home overnight. What were they thinking?

Why was the girl allowed to be in the home?

CLARK: You just keep thinking you can protect them, I guess. I don't know.

EVANS: Shannon wanted to be there.


GRACE: She wanted to visit?

EVANS: She wanted to be with mother.


GRACE: Harry.

DEST: Nancy, two weeks prior to the shooting Janice came to visit -- or came to the mother's house and wanted to see her. And two weeks prior to this, at that meeting, the father attacked Janice as she was visiting Mrs. Clark.

GRACE: What do you mean attacked?

DEST: Began to beat on her, pull her hair. The other relatives had to pull Mr. Clark off of Janice. And this is just two weeks prior to the incident. I think that's what really set things...

GRACE: When was the molestation of Janice's daughter?

When did that happen in relation to the shooting?

CLARK: '87.

DEST: That was in 1987.

GRACE: So that's with a long time ago.

DEST: But you have to understand the abuse carried on all through Janice's adult life. It never stopped. Anytime she would go and visit Mrs. Clark while she's sick he would hit her, he would beat her and other relatives would have to take him off of her. GRACE: What I want to get to is the day of the shooting. What happened, Harry?

DEST: The day of the shooting Janice was thinking about all the abuse that occurred over the years. And we're talking 40 years of abuse that was inflicted not only on Janice but her mother, Glenda, and Sherri. And because Mrs. Clark is dying of cancer, she wanted to put an end to it. She was thinking about all the pain and suffering that this man has inflicted on the family.

EVANS: She wanted my mom to have a little bit of peace.

DEST: She wanted peace. In fact, if you read her letter and read her statement, she said I just wanted the family to have peace. Now, obviously, she recognizes that that was the wrong decision. People cannot take the law into their own hands. But she did it so that her family would have peace.

GRACE: Well, my question is, Sherri, when the law doesn't protect you, what choice do you have?

THORNBURG: You have nothing but to protect yourself, to fight back.

EVANS: We always have protected ourself.

THORNBURG: I can tell you, Nancy, before I've contemplated how I can kill him and get away with it several times.

GRACE: When you would tell your counselors and your teachers at school that your father was beating you, molesting you, coming in your bedroom at night, what did they do?

EVANS: Nobody did anything back then. It wasn't like it is now.

THORNBURG: They didn't do anything. They just, you know -- they would comfort you and tell you -- feel sorry for you.

EVANS: They didn't step in like they do now.

THORNBURG: They didn't step in. I don't know about how the law was then. But I don't think -- now I think they have to report it.

GRACE: That's right.

THORNBURG: Then they didn't have to report it.

DEST: If law enforcement was proactive back 20, 30 years ago as they are now, I don't think department of social services was proactive in enforcing this.

GRACE: And now the law is if a teacher or counselor knows or has reason to even suspect child molestation or abuse they must report it under the law or they're in trouble. Of course, that statute did not exist when you were in high school. When we come back, Phil Smith is joining us. The prosecutor who decided to put Janice Clark behind bars. Stay with us.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was December 11, 50-year-old Janice Clark Smith says she went to her father's house on Pottery Road, fired three rounds into his chest, went home, had two cigarettes, and went to bed. The next morning she told her husband, quote, "I shot daddy last night."


GRACE: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Nancy Grace from "Court TV," in for Larry tonight. I want to thank you for being with us. Tonight, a heartbreaking story of literally decades of child sexual abuse, physical abuse, mental abuse, that ended in a murder when a 50-year-old mother of three marched into her father's home and gunned him down dead. Now the district attorney that insisted on putting her behind bars is joining us. South Carolina prosecutor Phil Smith. Phil, welcome to LARRY KING. One thing that I don't understand, Phil, after hearing about all these decades of sexual abuse -- and Phil, you've handled child molestation cases. I know you have.

You know a molestation victim is forever changed. They never get out from under it. What possessed you to want this woman behind bars for up to 15 years?

PHIL SMITH, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY VS. JANICE CLARK SMITH: Well, ultimately, if you look at the facts of the case, at the time of the killing Mr. Clark was not a threat to Ms. Clark or to Ms. Clark Smith at the time. This was in a fact scenario legal sense a cold-blooded murder. And because of that I felt it was necessary that this crime not go unpunished and that our community understand that taking the law into your own hands when you are not threatened would ultimately be prosecuted by our office.

GRACE: Phil, lay out the facts as you know them that would support murder one.

SMITH: OK. Actually, Ms. Clark Smith wrote a letter and left a note saying she was going to the house that night to kill her father. If you take the story further, she tried it two months or a month earlier, and that night she prayed that if God didn't want her to do it let the doors be locked. And the doors were locked that night. Now, when she went back a month later, she didn't ask for a second opinion. She went in, she had a bottle of wine to get her father drunk. She had a gun, and she had gloves. She pulled the trigger, it didn't fire. Pulled again, it didn't fire. Pulled again, it didn't fire. Ultimately fired. She shot her father three times, drove off, disposed of the wine, the gun, and the gloves.

GRACE: Now, hold on. Phil, here in the New York studios everybody's shaking their heads no, no, no, no. Hold on. Glenda? It didn't happen that way? EVANS: He was already drunk.

CLARK: She didn't take the bottle of wine just to get him drunk.

GRACE: I don't think the wine is the problem. I think the gun and the repeat shootings, I think that's the problem.

EVANS: Yes. She had sat there and thought all day about us having to take mother out of her home again and she just -- everything just hit her.

GRACE: So when you're saying no, no, no, no, is it the wine portion of the story that you're objecting to?

CLARK: She didn't know to get him drunk. I had already been removed from the house because he was drunk.

GRACE: OK. So Phil Smith, is that -- could that be true?

SMITH: Well, I can only tell you what she said to the police, and she said she took a bottle of wine for him. And that's how she enticed him out of the bed. He was asleep when she went in the house.

GRACE: Was he unarmed?

SMITH: Was he what? I'm sorry.

GRACE: Unarmed?

SMITH: He was unarmed, sure. Yes.

GRACE: OK. So she goes to the house with the weapon. She had gone two months before. Now, what happened the day after, Phil?

SMITH: She took a sleeping pill that night, smoked a cigarette, and went to bed. The next morning she woke up. At some point she told her husband. Thankfully, Jerry said we've got to check on him, he could still be alive, and we've got to call the police. And he did. And as Judge King pointed out at the plea, that is probably what saved Ms. Clark Smith a 30-year or a life sentence.

GRACE: What?

SMITH: Because it was able to show that she did cooperate from that point forward.

GRACE: Now, when she gave you her story, what was your first reaction?

SMITH: Well, of course I don't get to hear it, but Lieutenant Tim Hager, who had oddly enough actually responded to the house in 1981, came to me. He told me that there were facts in the case that factually it was a cold-blooded murder but there was really a lot more going on here.

GRACE: He responded to the home, to a call in 1981? SMITH: He did. Now, I would like to address that because I've heard a lot about what law enforcement's involvement was. Since 1979 there were 11 calls to the household. Six of them were placed by Mr. Clark. So he was a person who oddly enough did respect law when it showed up. Three times he was the subject of the call. Each of those three times, in '81 they decided not to go forward with the report when Lieutenant Hager showed up. But Glenda said he stopped messing with her then because he knew she'd call the law on him. The next time they were called out on him, he was committed, as the family spoke about.

GRACE: When you say committed, do you mean put behind bars?

SMITH: No, ma'am. At that time they were attempting to do it for his alcoholism and mental issues.

GRACE: What about the molestation, the sex molestation?

SMITH: Whenever it was reported, he was prosecuted. As we did ultimately in '86, '87.

GRACE: Wait a minute. Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. He was prosecuted in '86, '87 for Janice's daughter, and he got probation.

SMITH: That's correct.

GRACE: Now, if this cop was called out in 1981 and realized something was amiss in the home, 1986, '87 there's a child molestation charge of sex abuse, why did he get simple probation?

SMITH: They were over at the time. He was called out, and he was a classmate, I believe, of the victim in the case. Discussed with them what they wanted to do. Ultimately, they decided they didn't want to proceed any further, but he wanted to do a report so there would at least be something on file. And that was done.

GRACE: But why didn't they prosecute the case? Because they were classmates in high school? Did I just hear that?

SMITH: No, no, no. The wishes of the family.

GRACE: The wishes of the family. OK. Here is the family. They're shaking their heads no. What happened?

EVANS: That is when I did take a warrant. Tim instructed me when he came out, he was working for the South Carolina Highway Patrol then. He came out on that call the night daddy jumped on me and beat me. He came out, he instructed me to go take a warrant out on him. I did. He instructed me and my mother to both go talk to the probate judge, to take out commitment papers on him. We did.

GRACE: For alcoholism?

EVANS: For whatever.

GRACE: OK. EVANS: Because we told him how crazy he was, how he would knock all the windows out of the house, how he would beat us.

GRACE: And what happened?

EVANS: They said he was a drunk, and he ultimately wanted to be boss of his family, and we wouldn't let him, and they did not have room for drunks in Columbia. That's what the bottom line was.

GRACE: Phil Smith, when you look back at this, do you ever feel a sense of futility, a sense of helplessness over all the years these girls were sexually molested?

SMITH: Sure. I wish -- as I said, I would much rather have prosecuted Mr. Clark for any of those instances than to have to -- have prosecuted Ms. Clark Smith for murder. I wish we had been informed.

GRACE: With us tonight, the entire family of Janice Clark Smith, currently behind bars for the shooting death of her father. But that's only the tip of the iceberg. That's only part of the story. Stay with us.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Smith's brothers and sisters told the judge their childhood stories, painting the picture of the dad they knew, drunk and cruel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holding shotgun to his mother's -- or to his children's head, shotgun to his wife's head, and daring his children to not cry.



GRACE: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Nancy Grace from Court TV in for Larry tonight. Thank you for being with us. Tonight, an incredible story out of South Carolina that spans decades, decades of child molestation, abuse, beatings, that culminated in the shooting death of the alleged perpetrator. But now the shooter, one of his molestation victims, is behind bars for a substantial period of time.

Now, even though you went to police, even though you went to your school teachers and counselors, they continued to tell you to just put up with it, even at the funeral of this man. What happened, Glenda?

EVANS: The whole funeral was about forgiving him. The preacher, the whole funeral was about forgiving him.

GRACE: And how long did that funeral last?

EVANS: About 45 -- about 45 minutes. It was a graveside service. We didn't want to have a funeral. We only wanted a short graveside service because of my mom being sick. GRACE: I want to fast-forward to the court proceeding for Janice Clark Smith. Smith had endured -- and there's no question about it -- years of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of her father. Phil Smith decided that she should go to jail. Now, Phil, explain to me how long she's going to be behind bars and what your thinking was.

SMITH: OK. Well, Nancy, as you know as a former prosecutor, that it's difficult in these cases, particularly if you're strapped with a sentencing guideline. If she were convicted of murder in South Carolina, the only sentence that she could have received would have been 30 years or life. And thankfully, my boss, Tommy Pope (ph), lets us look at cases and try to get some form of justice out of them, not just a conviction for murder.

And as you've heard tonight, there were compelling reasons, and Mr. Dest put up some amazing mitigation that the law enforcement knew about, once we started investigating, that made me think we've got to reduce this to something.

So we reduced it to a voluntary manslaughter and put a cap of 15 years on the sentence that went before Judge King (ph).

GRACE: So Phil, are you telling me that you felt the facts justified -- could justify a murder one conviction, but you agreed to a lesser offense?

SMITH: That's correct.


SMITH: Well, we don't have degrees of murder in South Carolina. So there's not a murder two or something that we could have switched to. But there are compelling interests on the other side here. And as you know as a former prosecutor, it's a difficult balance to strike. You just know that 30 years or life was not right for this case. But we didn't think probation was, either. So we recommended the cap of 15 years.

GRACE: Why? Why did you think that this woman needed to go behind bars? Do you think she's a threat to the community? Do you think she's going to shoot anybody else?

SMITH: No. But I think that she didn't have to shoot Mr. Clark.

GRACE: Let me go to you, Harry Dest. Explain what happened at the criminal proceeding with Janice Clark Smith.

DEST: Nancy, we presented evidence about the abuse, which again, spanned four decades. Everyone sitting at this table testified.

GRACE: To a judge, not a jury.

DEST: To a judge, as to the horrific nature of the abuse. Janice also testified. Also, her two brothers, Nathan and Doug, testified, and a psychologist who we hired to examine Janice. Clearly, she suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression, and panic anxiety attacks because of the years of abuse that she's endured. The judge heard all this evidence and made a finding that she in fact was a victim of criminal domestic violence. So that changed her parole eligibility. Under normal circumstance, if someone's convicted of voluntary manslaughter they have to serve 85 percent of that sentence.

GRACE: That's about almost 13 years of a 15-year sentence.

DEST: Correct. But because we presented this evidence and the judge made that finding...

GRACE: So now what is she looking at?

DEST: She's looking at 20 months, as parole eligible. She's parole eligible in 20 months.

GRACE: So she may or may not get out at the end of 20 months.

DEST: Right. It's not guaranteed. So we're looking towards that 20-month timeframe, when she's eligible for parole, and going to make another argument on her behalf.

GRACE: When we come back, the end to this story. Stay with us.


GRACE: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Nancy Grace from Court TV in for Larry tonight. The end of a story that spans decades, decades of sexual molestation, abuse, torture. The story of Janice Clark Smith, now behind bars.

Harry Dest, you are her defense lawyer. Why is this case different from every other case you've handled?

DEST: Nancy, if you could have the opportunity to meet Janice, you would know that she's one of the kindest, most gentle persons you'd ever want to meet. Anybody who's ever met her would say the same thing. And they can't believe that she's in this situation. But knowing the years of abuse that she's had to endure, and I'm talking horrific beatings, horrific sexual assault, all those things, make it extremely difficult for me, because here's somebody who is so broken and fragile, and the thought of her being in prison haunts me.

GRACE: How are her children? She left three children behind.

THORNBURG: They're devastated. You know, she also has grandchildren. And by the time she gets to see them again, they're not even going to know who she is.

GRACE: How do you feel, knowing it's your sister that took action and not you, and now she's behind bars?

EVANS: I wished that I'd have done it and she wouldn't have to be behind bars, because I feel like I'm a stronger person than she is and I could have withstood it more than she could have.

GRACE: Ma'am, when you think of your daughter behind bars, I know it haunts you. Have you spoken to her? Is she in high or low spirits?

CLARK: She's always in low spirits, but she tries to hold up. She's a very fragile person. She was seeing a psychiatrist before this ever happened, and she's seeing one now in prison. And she's just always very sad.

GRACE: And to you, prosecutor Phil Smith, what are her chances of parole?

SMITH: I can't speak for the parole board, but I can tell you that Mr. Dest and our public defender's office did an amazing job with the mitigation that they showed at the plea. It was comparable or better than anything I've seen in a capital case. So I think given -- being fully armed with all the information, the parole board will be able to make an informed decision. I mean, the pain of the people across from you is real and has to be considered.

GRACE: You know, when you think of her, do you feel remorse, or are you glad? When you look back over all these years in retrospect, Glenda, how do you feel about the shooting?

EVANS: I'm glad my dad's gone. I'm glad -- we have had more peace since he has been dead and gone. We can go see our mother anytime we want to and take care of her. And her cancer has improved since he's been dead.

GRACE: And your life, how has it changed?

CLARK: I just feel relieved, feel more at peace than I ever have in my whole life. And his -- it just feels like something evil has left.

EVANS: My sister shot the devil. She killed the devil in our house.

CLARK: Several people have come in the house and said -- his own sister, even -- that they felt that something evil had left.

GRACE: What would you say now to people that are listening? You know at least one in four girls live through what you have lived through.

EVANS: Get out. Do something about it. Tell somebody.

THORNBURG: Get out. I know it's hard for you to get out, but you've got to get out. There is help out there now. You know, get out, get away from it. Go tell, you know...

EVANS: Don't let nobody...

THORNBURG: Don't give up.

EVANS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It ruins your whole life.

THORNBURG: If the first person you go to doesn't give you -- you know, doesn't help you, then go to another. And keep trying, keep fighting.

GRACE: Ladies, thank you. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Sir, thank you. And thank you to Phil Smith, to all of our guests. Sherri Thornburg, Glenda Evans, Martha Clark, Harry Dest and Phil Smith.

I'm Nancy Grace signing off for Larry for tonight. Thank you again for inviting us into your homes. And stay tuned for Aaron Brown on "NEWSNIGHT."


International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.