Prosecution files affidavit detailing Clay Waller's reported confession to killing

Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Clay Waller walks into the Cape Girardeau Common Pleas Courthouse before a custody hearing on Tuesday, June 7 2011. (Kristin Eberts)

When Clay Waller tearfully admitted to his father that he killed his estranged wife Jacque, he made a motion with his arms that suggested he broke her neck, according to an FBI supplemental affidavit admitted into evidence in federal court Monday.

The one-paragraph supplement, prepared by FBI Special Agent Brian Ritter, says that Waller spoke to his father, James Clay Waller Sr., just a few days after Jacque Waller disappeared on June 1. According to the affidavit, Clay Waller confessed to his father that the hole had already been dug and that he buried Jacque with a shovel.

The new information came to light Monday during Waller's detention hearing in U.S. District Court in Cape Girardeau. The affidavit, notarized Monday and signed by Ritter, is said to be based on interviews between two police officers and Clay's father. Documents do not say when the interviews took place.

Waller is facing a federal charge of making a threat on the Internet against Jacque's sister, and federal prosecutor Larry Ferrell is asking that he be held without bond. If convicted, Waller faces five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

Ferrell said last week the Jacque Waller case is relevant to this one because it suggests that Waller threatened Jacque before he killed her and he might do the same to the sister, Cheryl Brenneke.

But Waller's federal public defender, Scott Tilsen, said during Monday's detention hearing that the information from the confession is unreliable, calling the father's mental state into question. Clay Waller Sr. is 71 and resides in an assisted living facility.

"He has irrational periods where he does not speak rationally," Tilsen told the judge. "I think that affects the reliability of the content of those comments."

That was a point that Ferrell denied, saying that it is "absolutely false" and that Clay Waller Sr. has no problem recalling and presenting information.

Tilsen also said that the information from Waller's father is unreliable because Waller was abandoned by his father as a child and the two only became reacquainted as adults.

Magistrate judge Lewis Blanton ruled that the supplemental affidavit would be admitted into evidence and advised that hearsay evidence is admissible in a detention hearing. Judges typically rule within 48 hours in detention hearings. Pretrial motions are scheduled to be heard at 11 a.m. Sept. 29.

The supplemental affidavit also claims that Clay Waller Sr. told police that his son was crying and emotional when he confessed to his father about killing and burying Jacque. The father said he told his son to turn himself in to the authorities or seek psychiatric treatment, the affidavit says.

Nothing in the court records indicate whether Clay Waller Sr. told police if his son said where he allegedly buried Jacque Waller.

That's likely all of the information that will come from Clay Waller's father in the detention case. After researching the issue, Ferrell said in court Monday he was not convinced that he could ask for a deposition of the confession for a detention hearing. Federal procedure rules say that such a deposition can be given to preserve testimony for a trial, Ferrell said, but he wasn't sure the same is true at this stage, so he withdrew his motion that the father be deposed.

But Ferrell did note to the judge that he reserved the right to obtain a deposition from Clay Waller's father for trial purposes.

Several members of Waller's family -- his sister, brother and his teenage son J.C. -- appeared in court, but they declined to speak to the media. Waller also faces state charges of stealing and harassment, which kept him incarcerated since July 29. Waller posted bond after a reduction hearing last month but was taken into the custody of U.S. marshals when word of the federal charges surfaced. He has been held in solitary confinement at the Pemiscot County Jail since then.

A preliminary hearing in the state case against Clay Waller is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sept. 27, though that hearing may be delayed until the disposition of the federal case.

Waller was the last known person to see his wife and has been called a suspect by a state prosecutor. Other evidence that came to light last week at the detention hearing involved blood evidence found at his Jackson home that is a DNA match for Jacque Waller.

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

555 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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