Waller bond reduced at court hearing; prosecution calls him 'suspect' in wife's disappearance

Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Clay Waller, center, is escorted to a police vehicle after a court hearing at the Cape Girardeau County Courthouse in Jackson on Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011, where he appeared on charges of stealing and harassment. Waller's bond was reduced from a $65,000 cash-only bond to a $27,000 surety bond. (Kristin Eberts)

A Cape Girardeau County prosecutor called Clay Waller a severe flight risk and a "suspect" in the investigation of his wife's disappearance Tuesday, the first time authorities have deviated from calling him anything other than a person of interest.

Still, a judge reduced Waller's bond on the unrelated charges that have kept him incarcerated since July 29.

Judge Scott Thomsen reduced Waller's bond from $65,000 cash-only to a $27,000 surety bond, meaning that as little as $2,700 would be enough for his release.

Waller, 41, spoke as if he has plans, should he obtain release.

"I've got a job in Malden," Waller told Thomsen. "I'm going."

Waller appeared in court on charges of stealing and harassment, which law enforcement has been quick to point out have nothing to do with the investigation of his missing wife, Jacque.

But Cape Girardeau County assistant prosecuting attorney Angel Woodruff told the judge before his ruling that Waller is a flight risk because he is the focus of the investigation into Jacque Waller's disappearance.

"You can consider anything," Woodruff told Thomsen. "He is a suspect in this case."

Waller's attorney, Scott Reynolds, interjected, saying: "You mean a person of interest?"

"A suspect," Woodruff responded, more forcefully.

Police investigators have repeatedly called him a person of interest. Jacque Waller has been missing since June 1 and police have said they suspect foul play. Police believe Clay Waller was the last person to see his wife before she disappeared.

Her estranged husband was arrested July 29 and charged with stealing by deceit and harassment.

Probable-cause statements say that Clay Waller accepted a check for $55,000 from the Delta Cos. in April 2010 for construction work he never did. The harassment charge stems from a complaint made the week before his arrest by a former friend, Gary Hill, who told police that Waller threatened to kill him.

During Tuesday's court appearance, Woodruff also said that Clay Waller threatened a potential witness in the Jacque Waller case. Reynolds pointed out that no charges have been filed based on those allegations.

After reducing his bond, Thomsen admonished Waller to have nothing to do with anyone involved in his wife's case.

"You are to have no contact with any of the people in any potential investigation," Thomsen said. "You know who they are. This has been very public. If I hear any allegation of that, you're going to be sitting back in jail with a high bond."

As part of the appearance, Reynolds waived the arraignment on the stealing and harassment charges and Thomsen set a preliminary hearing for Sept. 27 at 2 p.m. in Jackson. That's when Reynolds made a motion for a bond reduction.

After the hearing,

Reynolds said he was pleased with the judge's ruling, calling it "fair."

Reynolds said he hoped that Clay Waller would be able to make bond as soon as possible. While he was optimistic it would be Tuesday, Reynolds said it could be later in the week.

"The family is trying to get that money secured today," Reynolds said. "Once that happens, he should be able to bond out."

As of 9:20 p.m., Clay Waller was still incarcerated at the Cape Girardeau County Jail, according to jail commander Capt. J.P. Mulcahy. But Mulcahy said Waller was working to reach several bail bondsmen.

When called after the hearing, Woodruff said she had no further comment to elaborate on what was said in court. Reynolds said he was aware that Tuesday was the first time his client was called a suspect in the Jacque Waller case.

"I thought that was the most interesting part of the hearing," Reynolds said. "To me, it's been a game of semantics the whole time."

The release of Clay Waller shouldn't affect the case, said investigator Lt. David James of the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department. But, for him personally, it creates other worries, he said.

"It makes me worry about the safety of our citizens," James said. "It makes me worry for the safety of the family. But it doesn't change our investigation. The investigation will march on."

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

1 Barton Square, Jackson, MO

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