Special to The Leader
BATH | “Justice for Kelley.”
If you’ve been in or around the Bath area over the last two months, the signs and purple ribbons have been hard to miss.
For Kim Bourgeois, the sister of the slain Kelley Clayton, it was always more than a slogan -- it was a mission.
“I told my sister from the night she was murdered that we would not stop fighting for justice for her,” she told the media after Thomas Clayton was found guilty Thursday.
Over the last year, she became a de facto member of the prosecution team, often seen meeting with the attorneys and investigators during Clayton’s lengthy trial.
The group of family and friends has been a consistent presence throughout this trial as well as the trial of co-conspirator Michael Beard.
“We have a strong family, and it has shown through,” said Liz Stage, Kelley’s mother.
But Bourgeois says she and her family didn’t get this far alone.
“The support that the community has given us -- no one gave up,” Bourgeois said. “I thank God that justice was served.”
For prosecutor Weeden Wetmore, brought in from Chemung County after Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker recused himself from the case, one of the first words to come to mind after the verdict was “relieved.”
“It’s over a year and a half that we’ve been working on this case,” Wetmore said. “Thank goodness we got the right result.”
He thanked his team, including right-hand woman Susan Rider-Ulacco, and his own investigators Michael Marrone and Richard Weed.
He also thanked the Steuben County Sheriff’s Office and in particular Capt. Eric Tyner, who he called a “taskmaster,” along with New York State Police Sr. Inv. Rick Kemp.
But he had a special message for one of the investigators in the case.
“There’s a number of investigators in this case,” Wetmore said. “The one I always called the smartest in the room was (NYSP Inv. Allison) Regan.”
Regan was responsible for doing much of the technical work in the case including cell phone extractions, and for connecting the team with Sy Ray, whose testimony used phone records, GPS and Google data to track the movements of Beard and Clayton.
“I think his testimony was very helpful,” Wetmore said. “It corroborated everything we thought about the case.”
He also had kind words for his opposition in the case.
“Ray Schlather is a tremendous defense lawyer,” Wetmore said.
“And (Judge Peter Bradstreet) was able to keep order between us,” he said, nodding to the often contentious relationship between him and his counterpart.
Steuben County Sheriff Jim Allard, who has been involved in the case since he, then still Undersheriff, arrived on the scene that night in September 2015, had words of thanks for those who had the hardest job in this trial.
“We’re extremely thankful for those citizens that did their civic duty on the jury,” Allard said. “That was an incredible investment of their time. And the images and the testimony they heard, they will not be able to forget soon.”
But he said in the end, the jury made the right call, and justice prevailed.
“There was a heinous murder a little over a year ago where two young children lost their mom, and the three folks that conspired to make that happen are now in jail,” Allard said. “It’s a good day for justice.”
As for the other side of the case, Schlather said he believes the jury acted in good faith, but came to the wrong conclusion.
“I respect the jury process, I respect the jurors,” he said. “They’re all good, honest people.”
“I have some real concern that what has happened here was not real justice -- but it is our system,” Schlather said.
“There will be an appeal,” he added. “It’s not over.”
He said an appeal would probably be handled by another attorney and isn’t something he could comment on substantially.
But he said his client continues to maintain his innocence.
“Mr. Clayton is adamant he’s not guilty of these offenses -- he did not kill his wife, he didn’t hire anybody to kill his wife,” Schlather said.
Liz Stage said that in all the celebration, it shouldn’t be forgotten that another family was suffering Thursday.
“I am sorry for (Thomas Clayton’s) family, I really am,” Stage said. “No one won in all of this.”
The only comment to come from the Clayton family came from Thomas’ step-mother, Claire Clayton.
“God is with me,” she said. “That’s all I need.”