"When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it-Always."
It was the 1st of June 2011. Jacque Waller was finally about to have the life she wanted. At 39 years old, she worked as a successful manager for an Insurance company and had three gorgeous triplets and lived in Missouri in the United States. But there was one chapter in her life that she wanted closed . And it was about to happen. Her husband and the father of her triplets, Clay, had agreed to divorce Jacque and it was about to become official. She could finally be free and move on with her life.
Clay and Jacque
That day, the 1st of June, Jacque and Clay attended the attorney’s office to sign some papers for the divorce. Jacque called her sister, Cheryl Brenneke, after she left her attorney's office. She told Cheryl she was just about to call into Clay's house to collect their son Maddox. Jacque told Cheryl she would be home after that. But Jacque never made it home. At around 7pm that evening Cheryl was frantic. She had tried to call Jacque but received no answer. She tried Clay too and he called her back. He told her he would let her know if he saw Jacque. Clay's house was an hour's drive away in Jackson and Cheryl got into her car and drove straight to Jackson. She stopped off at the police station and told officers "I know Clay Waller killed my sister." It was a stunning and bold statement given Jacque had just called her a few hours earlier. So what was it about Clay that made Cheryl sure he killed her sister before Jacque had even been reported as missing?
Jacque loved Clay at one point. She loved looking after him. He had a speech impediment and Jacque would stand up for him. She was so happy when she found out she was pregnant and even happier when she had three beautiful children, two girls and one boy. Jacque took motherhood in her stride. She managed to look after the three children, do the night feeds too and still hold down her 40 hour a week job. She was more than capable of not only caring for her children at home but also financially supporting them. Clay was the opposite. While he certainly claimed to love his children, he didn't do much in the way of looking after them - either through love or financial support. Jacque's parents, Stan and Ruby Rawson, didn't like him at all. It was easy to see why. He moved from one job to the next and he started to have affairs. He also began to abuse Jacque both emotionally and physically.
Jacque and the Triplets
Jacque decided she finally had enough. She knew she could look after her children and they would have a happier home if she divorced Clay. Jacque told Clay she was thinking about leaving and if she left she would take the children with her. In the year that followed , Clay began to threaten Jacque. She was afraid. So much so that she kept a diary in work of all the things he said to her. They included direct threats, such threats as "a divorce would be her death sentence" and he even threatened to kill the children. He told her he would take them fishing and let them drown and he would take pleasure in telling her so.
Jacque and the Triplets
Jacque moved in with Cheryl and Chery's husband Bob and their children. Jacque and the triplets really enjoyed living there. After a while, it seemed things were settling down with Clay too. Jacque had began to date again but so did Clay and he was in a relationship when their divorce was about to become final. Even so, when Jacque didn't return home on the 1st of June, Cheryl just knew something bad had happened and there was only one person to blame. Clay Waller.
When Cheryl went into the police station in Jackson that night, officers took her at her word. They immediately sent an officer to Clay's house.Clay told the officer that he was with Jacque that day. They met at around 11am at Walgreens, went for some lunch and went off for a while to do their own things around town and met again at the attorney's office at 3pm to sign some papers.He said she went back to his house as she wanted to discuss the divorce. They argued but it wasn't anything too big but she just walked off. He looked for her but when he returned to the house, her car was gone so she had obviously left.
Police found Jacque's car . Initially it looked like the tire blew as she was driving so they looked into whether she may have taken a lift with someone , called for help or if someone had abducted her. However further inspection of the tire revealed she didn't drive over anything. It had been punctured while the car was not moving.
Police looked at Clay's account of the day Jacque went missing. They could see from CCTV footage that he did meet Jacque in Walgreens around 11am and they also saw footage of Jacque at 2pm but that was the last time there was any sighting of her on the footage. They did find footage of Clay from that evening. He was at a toy store wearing different clothes than he had on earlier that day. Further footage showed Clay washing his boat.
The problem police had was that they didn't know what happened to Jacque or where she was. But it was Clay's own actions that caused his own downfall in the end. He went around town taunting police and Jacque's family. He told them they wouldn't find anything, he would press his horn driving by their houses and give police finger gestures. He was vindictive and arrogant and couldn't help himself. He aways had something to say. But it was that need to have the last word and make further threats that truly got him. When the Court gave custody of the triplets to Cheryl four months after Jacque went missing , Clay threatened her online . He wrote "you are dead." online. And with those three words, he sealed his fate.
Clay was arrested on foot of the federal charge of threatening Cheryl's life. Clay pleaded guilty to the federal charge and got 5 years in prison. That allowed police to make sure a dangerous man was off the streets and not a danger to the community and gave them the time they needed to build a case against him in relation to Jacque's disappearance. Time was needed because without a body, police and prosecutors needed to built a very tight case based on circumstantial evidence. It took two years. Clay was charged with the 1st Degree murder of Jacque and tampering with evidence.
The case against Clay was strong but as with all circumstantial cases, they are difficult to prove and there are no guarantees.
When police searched Clay's house, they found the carpet missing in the hallway and blood on the walls in the hallway. They found the carpet hidden in the basement. It had been cut into strips but there were blood stains on it and the blood was a match to Jacque's blood.
Clay was offered a plea deal. This plea deal was offered with permission from Jacque's parents. The most important thing for them was to be able to bring Jacque home. The deal was that Clay could please guilty to 2nd degree murder and serve a maximum of 20 years in prison if he told police what he did that night and where Jacque was. He took them to Devil's Island.
When they reached Devil's Island, Clay could not remember exactly where he buried Jacque. He knew her body was in the area but did not know where. However, one officer found the spot. Clay had told them he used fertiliser and that particular officer knew that it would kill the roots of a tree so they found the dead tree and as a result, found Jacque's body. It was the 29th of May 2013. Almost two years after Jacque went missing.
Now that they had found Jacque's body, police wanted to know what happened to her.
Clay told police that Jacque wanted to call over to have sex one last time before the divorce was final. When they were in the kitchen, they accidentally knocked heads causing Jacque's nose to bleed and she moved forward into the hallway which is why there was blood there. He then said that Jacque began threatening him saying he would never see the children again and she would tell people he had beaten her up and that caused him to lose it. He punched her once on the nose and then pressed his forearm against her neck until she stopped moving. He claimed the decision to kill Jacque was a spur of the moment decision, he had not preplanned it and was only due to her threatening him with the possibility he would not see the children again.
His account was clearly inaccurate. Jacque had called over to collect her son Maddox. She did not know that Maddox was not in the house. He was with Clay's girlfriend. Clay also said he punched her once but this was inconsistent with the autopsy results . The autopsy revealed Jacque had multiple fractures to her face and skull that were consistent with blunt force trauma.
Clay thought he was clever painting a picture of how Jacque had almost forced him to kill her but his lies didn't match up with the evidence. He didn't care though as 20 years was the maximum he could get due to the plea deal. But there was one piece of information in particular that he revealed during his confession that he would live to regret.
He told police that the day before he dug a hole for Jacque's body. This was in contrast to his account that he decided to kill Jacque on the spot that day. But far more serious for Clay was the fact that by digging the hole, he crossed state lines in Illinois and returned with the intentionof killing Jacque. That meant he could be charged under the interstate domestic violence act which carries a sentence of 35 years and that sentence only begins after the 20 years is finished.
In Court, Maddox's victim impact statement was read out . The triplets were just 5 years old when their father murdered their mother. Even at such a young age they knew the impact of what their Dad had done and that their pain was a result of his actions. Maddox wanted to make sure his Dad knew exactly how they felt:
"We don't like you anymore."
The police were exceptional in this case. Quite often we hear of many missing person cases where police are slow to act or do not take it seriously. Thanks to Cheryl's brave statement that day in Jackson, police went straight into action and worked hard gathering evidence. They went above and beyond too to ensure that Clay spent the most time possible in prison. They know that someone as menacing and threatening as Clay will be the same at the end of his prison sentence and they need to protect the community.
Jacque's funeral was on the day of her parent's 50th Wedding Anniversary.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
"The effects of abuse are devastating and far reaching. Domestic violence speaks many languages, has many colors and lives in many different communities."
- Sandra Pupatello
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