The case against Michael Clark was wholly circumstantial. No one saw the shooter, the police never found the murder weapon, and despite numerous confrontational and deceptive attempts, the police never extracted a confession. The Boulder County District Attorney did not deem the evidence sufficient to even file charges against Clark for 17 years.
Mike has been a devoted husband for 12 years and is the father of three children, ages 6, 8, and 10. He went through some rough times after high school, losing his financial aid for college in his second year and having to depend on friends in Boulder, CO for housing. He did some dumb things, which included committing check fraud against the victim in this case, Marty
Mike, however, stayed in Boulder after pleading guilty to the check fraud, successfully completed his probationary sentence, and put that time in his life behind him. After completing probation, in 2001 he moved to Oregon for nine years. He moved back
to Colorado. He has always maintained he had nothing to do with Grisham’s murder.
On the evening of November 1, 1994, 19-year-old Mike, who was couch surfing in Gunbarrel, CO after losing his financial aid for college, went to a playoff soccer match in Lakewood, CO with his friend Jamie Uhlir. The game started around 7:00PM and
ended around 8:30-8:45PM.
Uhlir and Mike left the soccer match at the end of the game, which Uhlir said may have been as late as 8:45PM. Uhlir was on crutches due to an ACL injury, so they took their time leaving the stadium. Mike drove Uhlir back to his apartment near Denver University. It took 15 to 20 minutes, perhaps a bit longer because Uhlir was on crutches.
According to Uhlir’s review of his statements to police on November 7, 1994, not his independent recollection, Clark left between 8:50-9:00PM saying he had to go do something. Uhlir testified this was “pretty typical of Mike,” because, “if he was doing something, whether it was meeting a girl or something else, he would never really get into the minute details about it.
Mike was not acting nervous or weird and did not leave in a hurry. Uhlir saw Clark the next day and he seemed completely normal. According to Uhlir, the drive from his apartment to Boulder in those days took “anywhere from 20, 25 to probably 45, 50 minutes depending on traffic.”
Mike later explained to police officers that he got a page from Allison Hackman and wanted to drive home to call her back.
Hackman visited Clark when he was in jail for the check forgery and they would begin dating shortly afterwards.
Mike told the police officers he drove back to Gunbarrel, watched the end of “Beavis and Butthead,” which aired between 9:00 and 9:30 that night, and then talked to Hackman until about 10:15. Clark then talked to another girl, Kristin Baulsir, for a couple minutes.
Hackman said Mike sounded calm, there was no background noise, and there was nothing unusual, such as lack of breath or nervousness, about Mike on the phone.
Baulsir testified that the first time police ever contacted her was in December 2009 and she could not recall whether she received a call from Mike on November 1, 1994, or much else for that matter.
Marty Grisham and his new girlfriend, Barbara Burger were supposed to have dinner with his daughter Kristen that night, but Krisrwn blew it off. Burger was finalizing her divorce from another man and Grisham was the first man she had dated since separating from her husband.
Kristen left a voicemail on Grisham’s home phone at 4:00PM., when she knew her father would be at work, which surprised him. Grisham “was concerned that something was going on with Kristen that he didn’t know about and just wondered what it was….”
Around 9:30PM, during dinner with Burger, Grisham responded to a knock at his front door. Grisham said, “That sounds like a
Loren knock.” Grisham walked to the door and, in Burger’s recounting, looked through the peephole, paused and looked at her, and then opened the door. Upon opening the door, Grisham was shot multiple times. Burger called 911; 911 dispatch recorded the call beginning at 9:34p.m. Grisham died from the gunshot wounds. No one saw the shooter and the murder weapon would never be found.
Around 9:45p.m., officers went to Louisville to notify Kristen and Grisham’s ex wife Pam of the incident. Shortly thereafter, a Boulder detective arrived to inform Kristen and Pam of Grisham’s death.
Upon learning of Grisham’s murder, Kristen laughed nervously and said, “He could be a jerk, but not that big of a jerk.” Kristen then went upstairs to call someone renting a room at the house, telling her “you will never believe what happened,” laughing while she did so.
Kristen had a very difficult relationship with her father. He was “horrible,” “emotionally abusive,” and “authoritarian” to her, Loren, and Pam. Pam’s divorce with Grisham was not amicable and she did not want anything to do with him.
Kristen’s relationship with Grisham at the time of his death “wasn’t great, but they basically just didn’t see much of each other.” Kristen told police in August 2011 that when she found out Grisham was dead, she thought he finally took it too far and pissed somebody completely off.
Grisham himself told Burger, that he had been an “asshole” to his kids. Grisham was especially tough on Loren and they did not get along at all when Loren was growing up. Loren stole from Grisham multiple times. He committed suicide in 2007.
While there were no witnesses to the shooting, one apartment complex resident, Tanya Jerome walked past an unusually strange, scary man in the complex at approximately 9:15 to 9:30PM, just before the murder.
Jerome said the experience was very unusual – it was the only time she remembered walking around Boulder and being scared of someone. She said the man “set off her radar” when he came too close to her and he was walking faster than usual. It was quiet outside when she ran across him.
Jerome found out about the murder the next day, called the police, and went down to the station to help prepare a sketch. The sketch did not resemble Mike.
Jerome also examined a six-pack photo array including Mike’s photo. She did not recognize anyone – in fact, when Mike's photo was published in the newspaper, she was surprised because when looking at the photo array she told police Mike was definitely not the man she saw. Jerome lived in the apartment complex for another eight months, but never saw the person again.
Mike was investigated for Grisham’s murder in November 1994 because he had a relationship with Kristen and admitted to stealing and forging checks from Grisham’s checkbook during the previous month. Mike also admitted to possessing a 9mm handgun in October 1994, but said he got rid of it before Grisham’s death. Mike took care of Grisham’s cat the last weekend
of September 1994, when both Grisham and Kristen were out of town, took the checks at that time and subsequently wrote checks out to himself and cashed them. He used the funds to help cover court costs related to being caught with a stolen motorcycle with Kristen on board. At trial, the prosecution argued this incident with the motorcycle over a month earlier was where the case began, allegedly setting Mike on the path to killing Grisham.
Also, a jailhouse snitch, cocaine addict, probation violator, and six-time felon on temporary release from California state prison named Walter Stackhouse, claimed Mike made admissions, including nodding his head when Stackhouse asked if Mike had killed Grisham, while Mike was jailed for the forgery. Stackhouse’s prior crimes included false information to a police officer, fraud, forgery, and false reporting. He admitted that in bringing his information to police, in exchange he requested release from jail to work release to prevent appliance stores he owned from “going under.”
Police also talked with a Marine recruiter who told them Mike showed him a 9mm handgun a week before the murder. And police interrogated Dion Moore (“Moore”), an acquaintance of Mike’s, who was a multiple time felon, drug user, and interstate trafficker in illegal guns between Colorado and Chicago.
Moore, who in 1995 negotiated a deal to testify against Clark in exchange for dismissal of pending cases against him, said he procured two 9mm Bryco-Jennings handguns, one for himself and one for Clark, in October 1994. Both Moore and Stackhouse were released from incarceration in other states to testify. There is no indication in the record or in the 20-page warrant for Mike’s arrest that Moore was ever investigated for Grisham’s murder, despite keeping one of the two Bryco Jennings 9mm handguns for himself.
The police thoroughly investigated Mike, including consensual searches of his person, possessions at the Gunbarrel house, and his car, none of which produced any evidence, and a lengthy interrogation while he was in custody at the station house on
November 3, 1994. During the interrogation, the police repeatedly confronted Clark with the belief that he was involved in the murder. They also had Mike participate in a pretextual gunshot residue (“GSR”) test, telling him they would test to see if Mike’s hands contained GSR. Officers, knowing they would not test the GSR, talked up the importance and efficacy of the test, hoping Mike would tell them he was involved in the murder. Mike maintained his innocence and lack of any information.
The officers also suggested that Kristen and Loren had the strongest motive to kill Grisham because they would receive a lot of insurance money, Kristen did not seem upset about her father’s death, and Loren and Grisham had conflicts growing up. Mike
steadfastly maintained his innocence, said he knew nothing about Grisham’s murder, and knew nothing about Kristen or anyone else’s involvement. Kristen, Loren, and Mike were investigated, but no one was charged.
In December 2009, Detective Heidel reopened the case. This time, the police focused almost solely on Mike.
As part of the new investigation, a container of Carmex found in an inconspicuous spot underneath a stairwell outside Grisham’s apartment the morning after the murder was tested for DNA and compared with Clark’s. The exterior of the Carmex produced a DNA sample which could not be linked to Mike. The interior produced an inhibited mixed sample, which when compared to Mike’s DNA matched 4 out of 16 loci, meaning Mike’s paternal lineage could not be excluded as the contributor. The mixed sample,
however, contained DNA from at least one other male, could have contained DNA from more than two other males and could have contained DNA from a woman.
No one else’s DNA was compared against the sample from the Carmex. Nor was there any evidence presented that the DNA was run through a law enforcement database of known offenders to search for hits. Rather, the sample was tested against a database of only 4,100 people (a very small sample) to come up with percentages of probability that the Y-STR DNA belonged to Mike's paternal lineage. And DNA analysis could not say anything about when the Carmex was deposited in the hallway, nor when the DNA was deposited on the inside of the container.
On April 15, 2011, police employed federal agents from the FBI and ATF to visit Clark unannounced at his job at Ace Hardware in Silverthorne. The federal agents approached Clark under false pretenses that they were investigating illegal gun trafficking out of a pawn shop in Aurora connected to Moore, Russian organized crime, and “gangbangers” in Chicago. They asked Mike to help them, in part by locating the gun Moore said he gave him 17 years earlier. Mike told them he couldn’t remember, but guessed he probably tossed the gun in a dumpster soon after he acquired it because he got nervous having it.
Soon thereafter, the federal agents and Boulder police officers conducted a second interrogation of Clark in Frisco. The interrogation was confrontational and the law enforcement agents repeatedly accused Mike of committing the murder. This time, the officers falsely claimed that forensic science had advanced to a point where they now knew the gun Clark possessed in
October 1994 was the gun that killed Grisham. Mike maintained his innocence.
Despite the fact that the murder weapon has never been found and there were no eyewitnesses, Mike would eventually be charged with and convicted of the murder. Mike continues to maintain his innocence.