Family of slain Cape man wants criminal charges

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

While the state says the man who fatally stabbed Walter Scott Claar was acting in self-defense, Claar's family believes the man should stand trial.

Claar died July 7, four days after being stabbed twice during an altercation with a female he had dated, according to a letter from Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle sent to Cape Girardeau Sheriff John Jordan. The man who stabbed Claar -- who was dating the daughter of the woman Claar was reportedly abusing -- had acted in self-defense because Claar had been asked to leave the premises and was allegedly hitting the woman, Swingle said in the letter.

Jordan and Swingle could not be reached for comment Monday.

Eddie Claar, Walter Claar's father, said he believes his son was not killed in self-defense. Walter Claar was held and stabbed during the altercation, he said. His son did not beat the female victim, Eddie Claar said.

"My son has not been an angel, but he was not a woman beater," Claar said. "He shouldn't have been there -- we begged him not to go back -- but he didn't deserve to die."

Walter Claar had pleaded guilty to possession of a chemical with intent to manufacture a controlled substance in 2004 and was sentenced to four years in prison. In 1995, he pleaded guilty to robbery and received probation.

Eddie Claar said there was domestic violence in his son's relationship with the woman but that Walter Claar never beat her.

Walter Claar had assaulted the female victim at her home July 2 and assaulted her again at her mother's home in the early morning on July 3, Swingle wrote. When Claar returned to her mobile home, three men were there to try to get him to leave, Swingle wrote.

Swingle will not press charges on the grounds of Missouri's "Castle Doctrine," which says a person may use deadly force against someone who is committing a forcible felony. It also provides that anyone justified in using such force has an absolute defense to a criminal or civil suit, Swingle wrote.

"While it was a tragedy, it would not have happened had Walter Claar not been committing a forcible felony of domestic assault," Swingle wrote.

Walter Claar began assaulting the woman after she told him to leave her home, and her daughter's boyfriend grabbed Claar and pulled him away from the woman, according to reports. The man struggled with Claar in an effort to push him out the door, Swingle wrote. According to the man, Claar had previously threatened him with a knife, so he had picked up a kitchen knife off the counter. The man punched Claar in the chest with the hand holding the knife during the struggle to get Claar out the door, Swingle wrote, causing two small puncture wounds that proved to be fatal.

Walter Claar was taken to a hospital and underwent surgery for his injuries and was placed on life support. He died four days later. His wounds were fairly large and indicative of murder rather than self-defense, Eddie Claar said, adding that investigators could never find the murder weapon.

"He was dead before he got to the hospital," Eddie Claar said. "He bled to death at the scene."

Eddie Claar disagrees with the Castle Doctrine, saying a murder can be made to look like self-defense.

"I can invite someone into my house, kill him and tear up the walls to make it look like a struggle," he said.

In his letter, Swingle contends that Walter Claar's death could have been prevented had the victim called the sheriff's department to report domestic abuse. Eddie Claar said no one will ever know what actually happened.

"My son is dead, and he's the only person who can really testify to what happened that night," he said.

psullivan@semissourian.com

388-3635

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