SANTA ANA (CNS) - A 31-year-old Placentia man was sentenced today to 25 years to life in prison for beating his girlfriend to death with a pool stick.
Jurors, who began deliberations at about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, found Nicholas Lee Clark guilty of first-degree murder a little over five hours later. Clark asked to be sentenced immediately, but it was decided to hold sentencing until Wednesday morning to give his victim's family members a chance to speak in court.
Clark was convicted of killing 19-year-old Madeline Rose Mallory on July 31, 2016.
After handing down the maximum punishment, Orange County Superior Court Judge Gary Paer told Clark he would have tacked on more years if possible.
Paer noted Clark's poor record under probation for prior incidents.
“There have been restraining orders issued in the past and he has a track record of violating these restraining orders,'' Paer said.
Court records show Clark pleaded guilty on Oct. 19, 2011, to contempt of court, stalking and two counts of disobeying a domestic relations court order, all misdemeanors.
Clark pleaded guilty on Aug. 19, 2009, to disobeying a court order and on May 25, 2010, he pleaded guilty to disobeying a domestic relations court order and contempt of court, both misdemeanors.
“I can honestly say I've had this job for 24 years and this is one of the worst cases of domestic violence I've ever witnessed,'' Paer said. “If I could give him more time I would do it without batting an eyelash.''
Clark apologized to the victim's family.
“I just want to say I'm sorry to the family,'' Clark said. “I regret the whole thing... It's hard to talk about in court all the time.''
He said he didn't intend to kill Mallory.
“I didn't want it to happen,'' he said. “I'm really sorry about everything.''
Mallory's sister, Kandice Mallory, told Paer that her sister “was there for me in good times and bad,'' and that she was the “the one in the whole family who really knew me.''
She said her life with her sister was “crushed because of the selfishness and anger of a monster.''
Kandice Mallory recounted how her sister was “having cognitive issues'' after Clark had beaten her shortly before her death.
“I couldn't imagine hurting Maddie in that way because she was so kind and sweet,'' Kandice Mallory said.
She vowed to attend every parole hearing to ensure Clark “stays where you belong.''
Clark's sister, Kaitlin Mustard, apologized to Mallory's family in a tearful statement to Paer.
“Me and my family would like to send our deepest condolences,'' Mustard said, sobbing. “We are so very sorry this happened. I wish every day there was something that could be done to change that day.''
She said she and her brother suffered “a lot of trauma'' growing up, but, “Unlike me, Nick never received the treatment I did.'' She said she hoped that he would get the mental health attention he needs while in prison.
“I know Nick made horrible decisions, but he is a good person,'' she said. “He is also very sensitive.''
Mallory was “brutally and violently tortured and killed,'' Senior Deputy District Attorney Mena Guirguis said in his opening statement.
Clark sent Instagram messages to Mallory's friend saying he “put Maddie in her place. LOL. (Expletive) hardcore too,'' as he was beating her to death, Guirguis said.
Clark “was her boyfriend a little bit that year,'' Guirguis said. The defendant went to high school with her older brother and sister. At some point they broke up, but she rekindled the relationship a week before her death, Guirguis said.
Clark dialed 911 at about 11:30 a.m. the day of Mallory's death, falsely saying she showed up at his front door in the 900 block of South Placentia Avenue beaten up and was non-responsive, Guirguis said.
Clark noted that she had gotten a restraining order against him so she wasn't supposed to be there, Guirguis said. He claimed he tried to revive her but couldn't, but when dispatchers implored him to try again he refused and left the area, the prosecutor said.
“He just leaves her there on the front porch.''
When paramedics arrived they tried to revive Mallory and rushed her to a hospital, where doctors also were unable to bring her back and she was pronounced dead, Guirguis said.
Police spent much of the rest of the day attempting to track down the caller, finally obtaining a search warrant for the phone and then tracking its movement before confronting Clark at a relative's home in Lakewood, Guirguis said. He only emerged from the home when police threatened to send a dog in, the prosecutor added.
Investigators found a broken pool stick and the victim's blood in the apartment where Clark resided, Guirguis said.
Mallory's cause of death was “blunt force trauma,'' Guirguis said.
“Her liver was pulverized,'' the prosecutor said. “She had extensive internal bleeding that led to her death... She had injuries and bruises from head to toe. Front and back posterior ribs broken... It was akin to a car accident.''
Lee Stonum of the Alternate Defender's Office said in his opening statement of the trial that it was “undisputed'' that his client killed Mallory.
“He takes responsibility for that,'' Stonum said. “What you're going to have to decide here is whether that killing was a murder or a manslaughter.''
Stonum said the defendant lacked the “state of mind'' to commit murder because he did not intend to kill his girlfriend.
The defense attorney acknowledged that the grotesque evidence in the case would prompt jurors into “viscerally disliking'' Clark, but he implored the panel to not get carried away with their emotions.
Clark was working at his father's machine shop in Placentia when he “reconnected'' on Facebook with Mallory, the sibling of his high school classmates, and it touched off a “whirlwind romance,'' Stonum said.
Until he started dating Mallory he mostly worked and “lived an isolated life'' while indulging in too much drinking, Stonum said.
Mallory had a “rough childhood'' and her own issues with substance abuse, but she was sober when she was dating the defendant and convinced him to give up drinking for a short while, Stonum said. When he started drinking again it fueled arguments, which turned physical, and she left him, Stonum said.
Later, she got a restraining order against him, which he did not contest and he started drinking more heavily, according to Stonum. That got him fired from his job, the attorney said.
Then, “out of the blue,'' Mallory called Clark, saying she missed him and wanted to give their relationship another chance. Mallory, who was “couch surfing'' with friends at the time, moved back in with Clark, Stonum said.
But while staying with friends, Mallory was exhibiting “bizarre behavior,'' which continued during her short stay with Clark, Stonum said.
Clark testified on his own behalf in the trial. His actions following his girlfriend's death showed he was “panicky,'' not uncaring, Stonum said. The defendant left home without his shoes even, he added.
“Nick was shocked by Maddie's death and he panicked,'' Stonum said. “Maddie's death was a terrible tragedy. It was a crime. But it was not murder.''
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