murder plea

Michael Clevenger

An Arkansas man, responsible for the April 2018 shooting that left one dead and another injured at a motel in Uncertain, has been sentenced to 40 years for the crimes.

The defendant, 51-year-old Michael Gerald Clevenger Jr., of Cabot, Arkansas, pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to the murder of Michael Campbell, of Houston, and to the aggravated assault of Clevenger’s then estranged wife, Dianna Clevenger.

Judicial District Judge Brad Morin approved the plea bargain agreement made in the case between prosecutors and the defendant, sentencing Clevenger to 40 years for each charge. The sentences will run concurrently.

“That was an agreement reached between our office and the defendant after consulting the victims’ families and the victim, Dianna Clevenger,” District Attorney Reid McCain said, noting Dianna is now Clevenger’s ex-wife.

“Over the past nine months since I’ve been in office we visited on multiple occasions and talked about trial, what could or could not happen at trial, some of the risks that are associated with trial; and we also talked about advantages to plea agreements,” the DA expounded.

With a plea agreement, the victims’ families found comfort in the fact that the defendant would have to waive his right of appeal.

“When you waive appeal it becomes final,” said McCain. “It’s closure for the victim and victim’s family and hopefully gives them some closure.”

He said trial was set to begin next Monday in the case.

“We were ready for trial, but you run a lot of risks such as the case coming back to be retried again because of error at trial, and what that does for families is prolong the hurt feelings,” the DA said. “So this gives them some closure. This is what they wanted.

“The family didn’t want any less than 40 years. They were agreeable to that,” he said.

Dozens of the victims’ relatives attended Wednesday’s plea hearing. The mother of victim, Michael Campbell, gave a victim impact statement, sharing how painful his death has been.

Background

The murder occurred on April 8, 2018. According to sheriff’s officials, at the time of the crime, Clevenger injured his then-estranged wife, Dianna, and killed her friend, 47-year-old Campbell, while at the Uncertain Inn, where the victims were lodging. Clevenger and his estranged wife had been separated for approximately six months at the time.

“On that day, Michael Clevenger drove from Little Rock, Arkansas to Uncertain, where Campbell and Ms. Clevenger had been staying,” McCain indicated. “As the couple was in the process of checking out, Michael Clevenger approached Campbell, who was unarmed, and shot him multiple times in the head and body. Michael Clevenger then pursued his estranged wife into a bathroom and shot her twice through the wall before fleeing the scene.”

Campbell was pronounced dead at the scene while Dianna Clevenger was airlifted to LSU Shreveport for a non-life threatening gunshot wound with injuries, Lt. Jay Webb, with the sheriff’s office, reported at the time.

Harrison County sheriff’s officials were alerted of the shooting around 11:30 a.m. that day.

“Harrison County 911 received a call from a victim of an aggravated assault that had occurred at the Uncertain Inn Lakeside, stating that she needed deputies and an ambulance,” sheriff’s officials indicated, at the time. “She stated she had been shot and a male friend had also been shot and was outside of the motel room on the porch. She gave a description of the suspect and the vehicle he was driving. She also stated that the shooter was her estranged husband and was most likely heading back to Cabot, Arkansas.”

“She stated that the two victims had been staying at the Uncertain Inn since Friday evening. She stated the alleged shooter and her are separated and have been for several weeks,” sheriff’s officials said.

The estranged wife was shot in the abdomen with a 45-caliber pistol. Campbell was found on the porch with several gunshot wounds.

A fleeing Clevenger was apprehended shortly after in Atlanta, thanks to the assistance of Marion County Sheriff David McKnight, Cass County deputies and state troopers.

After putting out a warning to be on the look-out for a silver Dodge Ram with Arkansas plates, McKnight noticed the described truck on Highway 43 in Marion County.

“He turned around and started following it,” McCain said. “He notified Cass County Sheriff’s Office.”

Once Clevenger crossed over to Cass County, officials there attempted to conduct a traffic stop.

“After a short pursuit in Atlanta, he surrendered,” said McCain.

The DA said Harrison County investigators were diligent and worked closely with his office in the case.

“The lead investigator Lt. Cindy Black was very instrumental in getting the case together so that it could be successfully prosecuted,” McCain said.