SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) — A 64-year-old Petaluma man charged with allegedly assisting his wife’s unsuccessful suicide attempts before hanging her from a tree delayed entering a plea in Sonoma County Superior Court Wednesday morning.
Judge Jamie Thistlethwaite lowered David O’Connor Clement’s bail from $1 million to $300,000. The judge also signed a criminal protective order prohibiting Clement from contacting his deceased wife’s mother and her two daughters.
More details about what Deputy District Attorney Robert Waner called “an extremely bizarre case” also were revealed in court.
Clement allegedly assisted his 52-year-old wife Debra Bales’ attempts to die by suicide by trying to smother her three times with a pillow during a three-day stay at the Inn at the Tides motel in Bodega Bay on Jan. 11, according to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.
When that failed, Clement and Bales bought a rope and Clement hanged his wife from a tree in the parking lot of the motel, according to the sheriff’s office. Clement then called 911 and deputies responded.
Clement was arrested and booked for attempted murder, but the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office charged him with voluntary manslaughter and assisting his wife’s suicide.
Waner told the judge there also was a separate plan to “weigh her down and walk her into the ocean” and another plan to stab Bales with scissors.
Waner told the court Bales was not terminally ill but she became addicted to prescription medication and was facing withdrawals.
After the court hearing, Clement’s attorney Scott Fishman said the prescription was for an opiate and Bales was concerned about becoming addicted. Bales suffered chronic pain and had been on the drug for a long time, Fishman said.
Fishman argued for lowering Clement’s bail to $135,000. He said Clement has no prior convictions and is not a threat to the community.
Waner asked the judge for bail at $500,000 until after a preliminary hearing is held.
Clement is scheduled to return to court Feb. 7 for entry of plea and possible disposition of the case.
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