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Connecticut Lawyer Masterminds Murder-For-Hire Of Her Estranged Sister's Husband
A custody battle ignites "a Hatfields and McCoys type of dispute" and a deadly pay-for-slay plot.
On March 10, 1994, the body of 28-year-old Anson “Buzz” Clinton was found near an I-95 off-ramp exit in Connecticut.
“There was no doubt he was dead,” Joseph Dunn, a retired East Lyme Police Department officer, told Fatal Family Feuds, airing Dec. 2, at 9/8c on Oxygen. “There was no doubt it was a murder.”
Bullets recovered from the crime scene indicated that the murder weapon was a .38-caliber revolver, according to Paul Murray, former deputy chief CT State’s Attorney’s Office.
Was Buzz Clinton targeted for murder?
Witnesses reported seeing a “tall lanky person” near Clinton’s car at the scene who got in another vehicle and drove off. Was this a carjacking? A targeted slaying?
Investigators learned Clinton worked in construction in Boston and Washington state after high school. He returned to East Lyme when he was 24. He towed cars and worked as a male dancer to make ends meet.
Clinton met Kim Carpenter, who had a young daughter, Rebecca. He gave up dancing and began studying nursing and working in a nursing home. On Jan. 17, 1993, Clinton and Kim married. Their daughter, Briana, was born six months later.
“He was very happy at the time,” his father, Anson “Buck” Clinton, told Fatal Family Feuds. “A few months later, my son was murdered.”
An autopsy revealed that Clinton was shot five times — twice in the chest and back, and once in the head.
From the crime-scene analysis it appeared that Clinton had been flagged down and “executed,” according to M. William Phelps, an investigative journalist and author of Lethal Guardian.
A day after the slaying, Kim told police that there was bad blood between her husband and two different men over Clinton’s outstanding debts. Both leads were dead ends though and the men were cleared as possible suspects.
Buzz Clinton's In-Laws Come Under Suspicion
Buck Clinton said he suspected that Kim’s family had a hand in his son’s murder. “I told the investigators the family feud started between Buzz and the in-laws over custody of Rebecca,” he said.
Kim’s parents, Richard, a landscaper, and Cynthia, a nurse, had two other children, Richard, and Beth, a real-estate lawyer.
For a time, Kim’s parents were Rebecca’s primary caretakers. “They were basically raising her,” said Diane Davis Morianos, a retired Connecticut State Police detective.
The conflict began when Clinton and Kim became serious and wanted to create a family with Rebecca. The Carpenters believed Clinton’s exotic dancing past made him an unfit guardian, according to Fatal Family Feuds.
October 19, 1992, the Carpenters filed for emergency temporary custody of Rebecca. A judge granted it based on the couple’s account of Kim’s history as a caregiver, according to Fatal Family Feuds.
A court battle ensued. Clinton and Kim were granted custody of Rebecca. The Carpenters petitioned the decision and made charges against Clinton.
“They definitely implied that my brother was abusing Rebecca,” said his sister Suzanne Krach. “That’s not who he was.”
There was no evidence of abuse, according to investigators.
Tensions escalated. Richard Carpenter allegedly threatened Clinton’s life. According to detectives, Clinton told him just months before he was killed that if something happened to him, his in-law was to blame.
Clinton planned to move with Kim and his family to Arizona, where the Carpenters had no grandparent rights, according to investigators.
What could be a better motive for murder, said Phelps, “than a Hatfields and McCoys type of dispute going on between families.”
Investigators questioned the Carpenters. At the time they were accompanied by their daughter Beth, and her employer, Haiman Clein.
“The Carpenters verified that there was a feud and that they were trying to get permanent custody of Rebecca,” said Murray. “The Carpenters claimed that they had no idea what might have happened to Buzz."
Richard Carpenter had an alibi for his whereabouts when Clinton was killed, which helped lift suspicion.
Mark Despres emerges as a suspect after phone tip
Detectives were basically back to square one. On May 25, 1994, police received a tip from a woman named Cathy White. She reported that Mark Despres, a used car salesman who was a friend of her boyfriend, was involved in Clinton’s murder.
Despres has a criminal history with drug dealing, according to detectives. “He is a registered informant for the State Police narcotics squad,” said Murray.
Despres was called in to be interviewed by police. He assumed it was about his role as an informant. When officials brought up Clinton’s murder, Despres asked for his lawyer, Haiman Clein — Beth Carpenter’s boss.
Despres told investigators that he dealt drugs to Clein, a real estate lawyer with a wife and four kids. “He would bring him cocaine on a weekly basis,” said Morianos.
Mark Despres reveals murder-for-hire plot
Despres eventually told police that Clein hired him to kill Buzz Clinton. “They negotiated a price of $8,500 and Clein gave him $1,500 as a down payment,” said Morianos.
Despres told police that around 6:30 p.m. on March 10, he seized a chance to shoot Clinton near the highway off-ramp.
Despres also said that when he met with Clein, Beth Carpenter was also present. He claimed that she and Clein were having an affair.
It was possible that Beth was behind the murder, said Murray, “And that Haiman was doing what Beth wanted.”
With his confession in hand, police arrested Despres for Clinton's murder.
Buzz Clinton's Sister-In-Law and Her Boss Orchestrate Murder
A search of Clein’s phone records and his bank records tied him to Despres. Police set out to arrest Clein, but he had gone missing.
Investigators focused on Beth Carpenter, who’d gone to the U.K. for work. “That made her look even more guilty,” said Dunn.
In phone conversations with authorities, Beth Carpenter acknowledged her affair with Clein. But she denied any involvement in the crime.
She offered to help investigators track down Clein. On Feb. 5, 1996, he was arrested while awaiting an arranged call from her at a pay phone in California, according to Fatal Family Feuds.
Clein’s trial was set to begin on June 12, 1997. In the run-up to the proceedings, he said Beth Carpenter masterminded the hit, according to Phelps.
“Their relationship was centered around this family feud,” said Phelps. “This whole plan to murder Buzz Clinton is really hatched in bed.”
When Clinton brought up moving to Arizona, that was the last straw. “Haiman Clein admitted he was infatuated with Beth Carpenter and would do anything for her, including murder,” said Morianos.
On August 26 1997, a warrant was issued for Beth Carpenter on a capital felony conspiracy to commit murder charge.
She couldn’t be extradited until the death penalty was taken off the table, according to investigators. In June 1999, she returned to Connecticut and pleaded not guilty. There was no evidence to move forward with the arrest of her parents.
Mark Despres was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
Haiman Clein had taken a plea deal and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. He served 22 years and was released on good behavior in 2019.
On April 12, 2002, Beth Carpenter was found guilty of first degree murder. She was sentenced to life without parole.
To learn more about the case, watch Fatal Family Feuds, airing Dec. 2, at 9/8c on Oxygen.