JOPLIN, Mo. —
Phillip Ivy could not say on the witness stand Tuesday that Joren Clay hit him, cut him or did anything else of an assaultive nature the night of May 3, 2010.
All the 47-year-old Ivy remembers is that he was asleep in the Joplin apartment he shared with Clay. There was a knock at the door. He heard Clay’s voice outside and opened the door. There was Clay with Chris Davenport.
Davenport hit him in the head as the two men rushed in, and that’s all he recalls, Ivy told the court.
“That’s all I know,” he said. “That’s it.”
Clay, 42, gave the judge a pointedly different account at his bench trial in Jasper County Circuit Court on charges of first-degree assault and armed criminal action.
Yes, he had brought Davenport along with him to confront Ivy and to ask him to move out. He had no plans to assault Ivy and no idea that Davenport would do so, Clay said.
“I just wanted someone to be there with me in case something went wrong,” he told the court.
Clay testified that Davenport surprised him by attacking Ivy. He said he tried to pull Davenport off the other man twice, but was unable to stop him.
At the conclusion of testimony in the single-day trial, Circuit Judge Gayle Crane found Clay guilty on both counts and set his sentencing hearing for Jan. 9. Davenport, 29, a reputed member of the Joplin Honkies prison gang, pleaded guilty in the case last month and was assessed 17 years in prison.
Ivy was beaten unconscious with a wooden baton during the assault. The septum between his nostrils and the sides of his mouth were slit, and a little finger was cut off. He told the court that his legs and feet were stabbed, and that he suffered a brain injury from blows to his head as well as damage to his ribs.
Sgt. Chad Dininger of the Joplin Police Department recalled finding Ivy inside the apartment that night.
“He was covered in blood,” Dininger testified. “I mean blood was everywhere.”
Dininger said the severed finger of the victim was found on top of a small refrigerator inside the apartment along with a pair of tin snips. Blood was smeared down the walls of a hallway and around a door frame.
Other occupants of the apartment house testified that they heard Clay tell Ivy while the assault was in progress: “You’re getting what you deserve!” One of the occupants told the court that he heard Clay tell Davenport to take Ivy’s dentures out. There was testimony that the victim’s upper teeth were found in the hallway, and his lower teeth were found on a bloodied mattress in the kitchenette of the apartment.
Public defender Frank Yankoviz attacked the testimonies of the other occupants of the house as either unreliable because of their own criminal convictions or inconsistent with other statements they made at some point in the investigation.
Clay claimed that the reason he wanted Ivy to move out was that he suspected that his roommate had sexually assaulted a woman who sometimes stayed at the apartment. Kimberly Fisher, assistant prosecutor, called the woman as a rebuttal witness, and she denied that Ivy ever sexually assaulted her or that she ever told anyone that he had.
The defense also argued that Clay had little to no blood on him when he emerged from the apartment, supporting his account that he had not participated in the assault. The prosecution maintained that Clay changed his clothes before leaving, and introduced into evidence a coat and a pair of jeans that police believe he had been wearing. The clothes appeared to be stained with blood, although Yankoviz pointed out that there was no proof offered that the stains actually were blood.
Fisher told the judge that regardless of whether Clay actually struck, cut or harmed Ivy in any other manner, he was guilty by way of accomplice liability. She said testimony established that Clay and Davenport had become friends in the preceding weeks, and that he knew Davenport had just been in jail for a previous assault. She said he knew that Davenport was armed with the wooden baton and had to have known that he was prepared to use it.
Fisher said Davenport did not even know Ivy and would not have been involved without having been recruited by the defendant. “Clay was the one who had the motive in this case,” she told the judge.
JOPLIN POLICE DETECTIVE BRADY STUART testified Tuesday that Joren Clay admitted yelling at Phillip Ivy as Christopher Davenport was assaulting Ivy, but denied hitting Ivy himself. Stuart said Clay told him that he wanted to stop Davenport but was too scared to try because of Davenport’s reputation as a member of the Joplin Honkies.