The Investigators: Did the law fail a woman who died after calling for help?

Kimberley Nicole Perkins
Kimberley Nicole Perkins
Published: Apr. 12, 2016 at 12:16 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 12, 2016 at 6:45 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Has the law failed a woman who called police for help and told her friends about her husband's repeated abuse, and is now dead?

A special law, Gwen's Law, passed a few years ago to protect victims like her, but does that law need to be re-examined?

"It was a day I'll never forget," said Carla Luneau.

Just like everyday, Luneau waits for her husband to get home from work and then the two walk down the secluded road at Veazie Road and Rosco Baham Road to a bayou in St. Landry Parish.

"She was lying here on her back," said Luneau.

That routine walk three weeks ago on March 21 was anything but when the couple thought they found a dummie in the drift pile.

"My husband walked back up where I was and he said, 'That's not a dummie. That's a real person,'" said Luneau. "There was blood in her ear, coming from her nose and her mouth. She had on a bracelet."

Luneau called 911. The body was later identified as Kimberley Nicole Perkins. An autopsy determined she was murdered, shot twice in the head.

Her husband, Sam Clark Jr., was arrested for the murder. St. Landry detectives said when they questioning him, he allegedly confessed to killing his wife.

Clark's arrest report said "Kimberley told Sam that she did not love him anymore and she was moving to Livonia, Louisiana and did not want to have anything to do with him anymore."

Her final hours included some chilling Facebook posts. Her last post was "If I die, say Sam Jr." It was posted the night before her body was found on March 20 at 8:19 p.m. Nearly 20 minutes later, she messaged her friend Kathryn Rossi begging for help.

"Kim sends me 'WYD. S.O.S. 911' at 8:37 p.m. At 9:13 p.m., I sent her 'What's up ma,'" said Rossi.

But there was no response from Kimberley.

"I sent her back, 'WTF is wrong hunnie.' No response back. At 9:45 p.m., I sent her, 'Well I'm worried,' and no response back," said Rossi.

But Rossi's last text showed it was seen March 20 at 9:45 p.m. Rossi learned the next night, her friend had died, something she said she always feared.

"He told her he would see the light drain out of her before he ever saw her with anybody else. If I can't have you, nobody can and he laughed like it was a joke," said Rossi.

Before moving to St. Landry Parish just a few months ago, Sam and Kimberley lived in Pointe Coupee Parish, specifically in Livonia. When Livonia Police Chief Brad Joffrion found out her body was found, he said, "Not surprised, but disturbed. It really took a toll on my department and especially the two officers who worked that call that night."

The night he's talking about is October 1, 2015.

"It was a domestic dispute involved between a husband and wife," said Chief Joffrion.

He said his officers had responded to their home for minor complaints in the past, but never anything of this extent. Clark was arrested for domestic abuse battery by strangulation and domestic abuse battery by aggravated assault with a firearm.

According to Clark's arrest warrant, the strangulation charge was for him "grabbing his wife around her throat to where she had to struggle to breathe" and the assault with a firearm charge for "taking a shotgun from the gun cabinet and pointing it at the victim, while questioning her about some missing money."

"She told me, 'It was pretty much nothing for him to come home and pull a gun on me.' I said what do you mean it's nothing for him to come home and pull a gun on you? She said, 'He does it all the time now. He used to just threaten to do it and now he started doing it,'" said Rossi.

Rossi said Kimberley told her horror stories about Clark hitting her, throwing things at her including a coffee pot and leaving bruises on her body. So when she heard the news of her death, her first thought was, "Y'all need to go find Sam because he did it."

"That wasn't the first time that happened. He's had charges of domestic abuse on him before. If they have a record of it, why give him a bond? Why you let him out? A protective order? What exactly is that going to do? They show up at their house. I mean wave a piece of paper at them," said Rossi.

She said she saw this coming especially after he was arrested last year in October.

Clark was arrested October 1. His Gwen's Law hearing was exactly one week later. A judge has to take into consideration a few different things before setting a bond amount: the defendant's history, whether he or she poses a threat to the victim and the type of force or threat made to the victim, specifically mentioning strangulation and threats to kill. In this case, Judge James Best set a $5,000 bond.

"The reason why the court set the bond at $5,000 had to do with certain statements that the victim made on the record under oath," said Chad Augillard with the 18th Judicial District Court's District Attorney's Office.

Augillard was present in court for Clark's October 8 Gwen Law's hearing. That law was passed just two years ago in 2014 to protect victims like Kimberley. However during Clark's Gwen's Law hearing, she had to testify about his alleged choking and putting a gun up to her, but with her husband sitting right in front of her through the hearing.

So instead, Augillard changed her story.

"That was also contradicted by the victim's testimony at the Gwen's Law hearing," said Augillard.

Augillard said had she testified to the what she claims were the original facts of the case, his charges would have been felonies meaning higher bond or maybe no bond and higher penalties during trial.

It's why some say the Gwen's Law needs to be re-examined.

"I think it's a good law, but I think it needs some tweaking," said Chief Joffrion. "I don't think the victim of a crime, especially domestic violence, should have to sit there and face the accuser because naturally they're not going to tell the truth and full story when they've been living in an abusive relationship for so many years."

Clark is set to go to trial next week on April 21 for the Livonia incident last year. He remains behind bars in St. Landry Parish with no bond.

"I don't wish anybody to die, but God says an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I hope he at least spends the rest of his life behind bars," said Luneau.

"Unfortunately, she loved the man but was scared of him," said Rossi.

The Investigators are scheduled to sit down later this week with one of the legislators who helped pass the Gwen's Law in 2014 to discuss whether any changes can be made.

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