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Crime News Snapped

After Allegedly Stalking Her Pastor, Woman Admits She Murdered Friend Years Ago

Clara Rector and Tommy Hope started up a relationship built on drug use. It all came to a bloody end one night in 2004.

By Benjamin H. Smith

Clara Rector credited her Christian faith for giving her the strength to conquer drug addiction.

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“I believe that Jesus died on the cross for the redemption of all people, even me,” she wrote on her blog, The Kansas City Star reported in 2013. But while she successfully got off drugs, she eventually ended up in prison for the murder of Tommy Hope.

Tommy D. Hope was born in 1955 and grew up in Texas as one of three siblings. Abandoned by their parents for days at a time, the Hope children were eventually put into foster care.  

“There was a lot of abuse in these foster care homes,” friend Brenda McCabe told “Snapped,” airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen. “He was neglected. He was beaten.” 

As soon as he was old enough, Hope joined the military. He left in his 20s and worked odd jobs to make ends meet. By his early 40s, Hope was living in Camdenton, Missouri, a small town near the Lake of the Ozarks, where he made plenty of friends from the local bar scene.

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But at 6:30 on the morning of April 28, 2004, Hope’s friends Cindy Christenson and Brian Norton went to check on him. No one had heard from Tommy in several days, which was unusual.  

After knocking on Hope’s door and getting no answer, Christenson crawled through a window. Inside she found Tommy: He was lying dead on the floor in a pool of blood. They went to a friend's home and called 911. 

“He’s laying face down, but then, there’s blood on the carpet and stuff too, right around his face area. Like, you know, he’s been bleeding from his head,” Norton is heard telling the 911 dispatcher on tapes of the call obtained by “Snapped.”

“I walked over to the body and at that point I could see that his shirt was soaked with blood. There was also the stiffening of the body. He was obviously laid there for some time,” Camdenton Police Chief Jeff Beauchamp told producers.

Luminol uncovered bloody footprints leading to a window. Prints were also found on the window frame, where the killer had exited the home.  

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An autopsy revealed Hope died from eight stab wounds to his torso and left arm and had  a laceration on his neck, the Chillicothe News reported in 2013. The medical examiner determined he had died three or four days earlier, either on the night of April 24 or the morning of April 25.

Hope’s friends told investigators that he used drugs as a means to cope with the traumas he suffered in his youth and while in the military. 

“He always had some drugs. Mainly user amounts and people would come over and party together and use Tom’s drugs. There was a variety of drugs; methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine,” Beauchamp told producers.

Another friend, Patricia Strouse, told investigators Hope had recently been seeing a married woman named Clara Rector. Her husband, Jason, knew about the relationship and didn’t like it.  

“Tom told me just a few days before he was killed that Jason had made a threat for him to stay away from Clara or he would be sorry,” Strouse told producers.

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Clara was born in 1976 in California and like Hope, had been removed from a dysfunctional home as a child. She was later adopted and moved with her new family to the Lake of the Ozarks. 

At 19, Clara married, but her first husband died in a car accident soon after she learned she was pregnant. In the aftermath of his death, she began using drugs and eventually married Jason Rector, with whom she had two children. Jason and Clara were regular drug users, but Jason ultimately got sober, while Clara still struggled with addiction.  

In Tommy Hope, Clara found someone who could relate to what she had been through and a willing drug buddy. She would leave Jason and move in with Hope before going to rehab in 2003 and reconciling with her husband. 

Clara admitted to investigators that she hadn’t been able to maintain her sobriety. Behind Jason’s back, she would sneak off to do drugs with Hope.

Investigators spoke to Jason, who was upfront about his dislike for Hope. He blamed Hope for his wife’s drug use and admitted he had warned him to stay away from her. 

“When they interviewed him, he said, ‘I didn’t do it but I’m glad he’s dead,'" prosecutor Brian Keedy told “Snapped.” 

Both Jason and Clara were each other's alibis, claiming they were with each other the entire time Hope might have been killed. With no evidence or new leads, the case went nowhere. Nine years would pass without an arrest.

Then, in April 2013, then-Camden County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Scott Hines was called to Camdenton Bible Baptist Church. Pastor Jerry Sousley told Hines he was being stalked by a fellow congregant named Clara Rector. 

Sousley claimed Clara had been sending him messages “regarding inappropriate matters of a sexual nature,” according to The Kansas City Star. These included messages left on his car windshield and a notebook she left him in which she detailed her sexual fantasies about him. 

After rebuffing her advances, Clara lashed out. “She said, ‘Jerry, if you tell the law what you know about me, I will destroy you. I will effing destroy you,'" Sousley is seen telling detectives in a videotaped statement obtained by “Snapped.”

Clara was referring to a prior counseling session with the pastor where she admitted killing a man. Sousley became concerned about the safety of himself and his family.

“She started telling me about how she had left Jason and the kids and started doing drugs and got mixed back up with this guy and she just kind of put her head down and said, ‘And I killed him,'” Sousley told detectives. 

Sousley implored Clara to go to the police and admit what had happened but she refused. 

  On April 21, 2013, Clara was taken into custody and charged with harassment and stalking, according to the Chillicothe News.

The detectives who worked the Hope murder were brought in to question her. After discussing her current case, they pivoted back to the events of 2004. She seemed relieved to confess. 

“I snuck out of my house in the middle of the night because I really wanted to get high,” Clara told detectives on the videotaped statement obtained by “Snapped.”

When Clara arrived at Hope’s home, he wouldn’t let her in at first so she crawled in through a window. After Hope and Clara used up his dwindling supply of cocaine they got in a fight. Clara said she grabbed a knife and jumped on Hope’s back and cut his throat. Then she continued stabbing him. 

“I started like, ‘I hate you, I hate you!' and he was standing there against the wall and then he’s like, ‘You know, I think you’re killing me, I think I’m dying,' and he just fell over,” Clara told detectives.

Clara explained she took the knife and Hope’s wallet and fled out the window. When she got home, Jason was waiting. After hearing what had happened, he helped her dispose of any incriminating evidence. 

Clara and Jason Rector were arrested on April 24, 2013, nine years to the day of Tommy Hope’s murder. Clara was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action while Jason was charged with felony tampering with physical evidence, Columbia, Missouri ABC-affiliate KMIZ reported at the time.

The charges against Jason Rector were ultimately dropped as the statute of limitations had run out on them.  

Clara Rector was sentenced to 15 years in prison on November 10, 2014, according to local newspaper the Lake Sun Reader. She is first eligible for parole in January 2024, when she will be 47 years old. 

For more on this case and others like it, watch “Snapped,” airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen or stream episodes here.

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