Carl Dorr held the picture of his little girl, with brown bangs and freckles and a shy smile, who was snatched from him several months after she was crowned a "Super Star" of her kindergarten classroom.
It was the photo that so many have come to recognize of 6-year-old Michele, frozen forever in a childhood portrait, after she vanished from her father's Silver Spring back yard on a hot, sunny May afternoon in 1986. She would have turned 20 earlier this month.
Now, Dorr said, he can bring himself to place a stone marker in his family's cemetery plot to commemorate his daughter's life--and her death. He has no body to bury, but with Hadden Clark sentenced yesterday to 30 years in prison for Michele's slaying, Dorr said, he finally can move beyond disbelief to grief.
"He'll be in jail the rest of his life," said Dorr, 46, who himself was investigated for years as a suspect in his daughter's disappearance. "The question is what I do with the rest of mine."
As for whether Clark will ever disclose the whereabouts of Michele's body, Dorr said, "I'm not going to obsess about it."
But the question of what happened to Michele appeared very much on the mind of Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Michael D. Mason before he sentenced Clark, who was convicted Monday of second-degree murder after a three-week jury trial. Mason ruled that Clark will not begin serving 30 years in prison for Michele's slaying until after he serves his current 30-year term for the 1992 murder of a young Bethesda woman and a 10-year sentence for a 1988 theft from a Bethesda family.
Prosecutors said they doubt Clark ever will be paroled.
Clark, who had glared at Michele's family, the jury and the courtroom audience during much of the trial, remained stone-faced with his head down during yesterday's one-hour sentencing hearing. His brow furrowed slightly as Mason sternly told him: "Denying these parents the opportunity to bury their child denies them closure and increases the magnitude of this crime greatly. . . . I think you could substantially mitigate the harm you have caused in this case, sir, by disclosing her whereabouts to her family."
After pleading guilty in 1993 to murdering 23-year-old Laura Houghteling in her Bethesda bedroom, Clark led police to Houghteling's shallow grave off Old Georgetown Road. But yesterday, he remained silent.
One of Clark's attorneys, Assistant Public Defender Donald Salzman, told the judge that Clark was following legal advice that he not address the court because they plan to appeal his conviction.
Salzman had asked the judge to allow Clark to serve the 30-year sentence at the same time as his current prison term for murder, saying that Clark had suffered a lifetime of severe mental illness, brain injuries and emotional abuse from his parents and siblings.
"We don't want anyone to misunderstand that we are in any way trying to characterize Hadden Clark as the victim in this case," Salzman told the judge. "We know Michele Dorr and her family are the victims in this case."
But Clark, he said, "is a damaged person."
Mason said Clark's mental illness, though severe, "fades into insignificance" when compared with the brutality of a little girl's murder.
After deliberating seven hours, the jury found that Clark had killed Michele with a knife but had not clearly premeditated her murder. Prosecutors argued that Clark had discovered Michele playing with dolls in his niece's bedroom and had nearly decapitated her. Michele probably wandered into the home of Clark's brother, who lived two doors down from Carl Dorr, searching for Clark's niece, who was her favorite playmate, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors conceded that their case was almost entirely circumstantial, and Clark maintained his innocence throughout the trial. Defense lawyers argued that Clark's time card showed he reported to work the afternoon Michele vanished and that prosecutors had no evidence, beyond the testimony of some prison informants, to link Clark to her disappearance.
After yesterday's sentencing, Michele's mother, Dee Dee Appleby, declined to speak with reporters. But she and her family hugged Assistant State's Attorneys James Trusty and Debra Dwyer and thanked the Montgomery police, many of whom have worked for 13 years to solve the case of Michele's disappearance. They promised to keep in touch.
Lt. Mike Garvey, who was one of the initial detectives assigned to Michele's case, turned to Sgt. Bob Phillips in the courtroom and said, "Well, it's over. It's over."
For Garvey, whose own daughter was Michele's age when she vanished, the case has always been especially personal, as it was for many of the police officers who have children.
He said he rejoiced at the sound of the holding cell's steel door slamming shut behind Clark after he was led from the courtroom in handcuffs. Unless Clark wins a new trial on appeal, Garvey said, it was likely the last time he will be seen in public.
"I thought, 'That was the end of the story,' " Garvey said. "Goodbye."
CAPTION: Carl Dorr talks to the media after the sentencing. His wife, Marjorie, holds a picture of Michele Dorr.
CAPTION: Carl Dorr holds up a drawing done by his daughter, who disappeared 13 years ago.