Margaret "Meg" Clevenger, the Little Rock woman found dead in her home on Labor Day, was killed by an accidental fall, the attorney for her husband, accused of killing her, told a Pulaski County circuit judge on Thursday.
Timothy Benjamin Clevenger reported finding the 56-year-old mother of his three children behind the front door, next to the stairs, of their two-story, 1,900-square-foot home.
Meg Clevenger was dead when police arrived. She had cuts, scrapes and bruises on her head and face, and at least three skull fractures, one of them in her face, that produced bleeding on the brain.
She had injuries on her hands that police described as "defensive wounds," but attorney Patrick Benca disputed that description. Benca said the scrapes and bruises were significant because the wounds are on the backs of her hands, showing how she had been trying to break her fall down the stairs.
He said a broken baluster -- one of the spindles that support a staircase handrail -- and blood splatter on the back of the door show that Meg Clevenger's death was an accident.
Benca also derided police claims about the significance of blood found upstairs at the home. Investigators can't say how old those minuscule marks were, Benca said. He told the judge the discovery should not be considered remarkable given that the couple had lived in the house for almost 30 years.
At Thursday's bail hearing, Benca told Judge Barry Sims the scenario that best describes what really happened to Meg Clevenger begins with his client arriving home after an early morning workout and discovering his wife facedown by the stairs in a pool of blood.
Tim Clevenger immediately called 911, then struggled to follow the dispatcher's directions about trying to aid the stricken woman, which led him to pull her into the living room, Benca said.
Clevenger had difficulty trying to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation because, at 225 pounds, Meg Clevenger was much heavier than him, the defense attorney said. Jail records show Tim Clevenger is 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs about 140 pounds.
Benca told the judge that police did not sufficiently explore the circumstances of the woman's death before charging her husband of more than 30 years with first-degree murder. He asked that Tim Clevenger's $500,000 bail be reduced.
The 58-year-old defendant has been jailed since his arrest about three weeks after his wife's Sept. 3 death. The Clevengers' oldest child, 28-year-old Emily Davis, told the judge that, if released, her father would live with her and her husband, about a mile from her parents' home. She said the couple would guarantee Clevenger would make all of his court appearances.
But the judge declined to reduce bail after hearing police testimony about the blood evidence found in the home, that the Clevengers' marriage was in trouble and that the couple had "dire" financial problems, among other things.
Arguing against bail reduction, senior deputy prosecutor Jeanna Sherrill presented the testimony of lead detective Matt Hoffine, who described for the judge the circumstantial evidence police amassed before arresting Clevenger.
An accident was one of the first theories police considered, Hoffine told the judge. The couple's son, Matthew Clevenger, 25, told police he had broken the spindle in a "fit of anger" months before his mother's death, the detective testified.
Police were also suspicious because Tim Clevenger said that the family dog was running free in the home, but police found no sign the pet had tracked through the blood, Hoffine said.
Police spent four days searching the house, but found no evidence of a break-in, he told the judge. Nothing appeared to have been stolen, and police ruled out a robbery because there were valuables in plain sight, among them a computer and Meg Clevenger's purse, Hoffine said.
She was found wearing a diamond pendant, he told the judge.
Tim Clevenger had a fresh cut on his left pinkie and bruises on his knuckles when he talked to police, Hoffine said. Clevenger didn't know how he had cut his finger, but said the knuckle marks were from arthritis, the detective said.
A blood mark on the upstairs master bedroom door that came from Clevenger is important because the defendant told police he never went upstairs after finding his wife, Hoffine said. A spot of his wife's blood was found in the couple's shower, which is attached to the bedroom, he said.
Tim Clevenger also reported no problems with his marriage, but Meg Clevenger's therapist told police that she had described the couple's relationship as "very broken" and had complained that Tim Clevenger worked 80-hour weeks just to stay away from home.
The couple's finances appeared "pretty dire" as well, Hoffine said, telling the judge how investigators found unpaid bills, some of which were months old, in the home.
Hoffine said police also have video evidence that Tim Clevenger changed shirts between the time he left the gym and when police arrived, although he denied changing his clothes. He was wearing a white T-shirt when police arrived, but gym video shows he was wearing a green shirt with a design on the front and back. Detectives never found that shirt, Hoffine testified.
Police also have video evidence that contradicts the route Clevenger said he drove to the gym. Clevenger told police that he left the house at 3 Old Forge Court and drove down Old Forge to Rodney Parham Road to get to the 10 Fitness gym at 10901 N. Rodney Parham.
But Hoffine said police have video that shows him driving on Gristmill Road, which would be a more circuitous route, Hoffine testified. Clevenger insisted he'd only driven on Old Forge to get to Rodney Parham, the detective said.
Sherrill, the prosecutor, also drew attention to the circumstances of Clevenger's Sept. 26 arrest. Hoffine said police went to his daughter's home to take him into custody, but no one answer when they rang the bell.
Detectives then rushed to the Clevenger home, where they found him hiding in his wife's car and talking to his son-in-law, William Noah Pierce, 28, who had called to tell Clevenger that police were looking for him.
Metro on 01/11/2019
Print Headline: No bail cut for Little Rock man charged in wife's death