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Murder Charge Is Filed In '86 Case of Missing Girl
Md. Suspect in Prison for '92 Slaying

By Katherine Shaver and Paul Duggan
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, September 24, 1998; Page A01

Twelve years after Michele Dorr vanished from her father's back yard in Silver Spring, Montgomery County police arrested the little girl's former neighbor yesterday, charging that he killed the 6-year-old and carried her body off in a duffel bag.

Hadden Irving Clark, 46, has been detectives' chief suspect in the case since 1993, when he pleaded guilty to murdering a young Bethesda woman, whose body was found only after Clark led police to her shallow grave, seven months after she disappeared in October 1992. He is serving a 30-year sentence in that case.

Michele was last seen walking out of her father's kitchen in a pink bathing suit with a ruffle and white polka dots the weekend after Memorial Day in 1986. Her body has never been found. Clark was arrested yesterday in his prison cell and charged with the first-degree murder of Michele, police said, after a more sensitive DNA test confirmed that boards from the floor of the home where Clark was living had blood residue.

Michele's parents, who are divorced, learned of Clark's arrest yesterday morning as police drove to the Hagerstown prison to arrest him. Her mother, Dee Dee Appleby, declined to speak with reporters, but her attorney spoke for her.

"When I told her, it was like a bolt of lightning. She was stunned at first," said James F. Shalleck. "She wants to say how relieved she is and how grateful she is to the Montgomery County Police Department for their continued efforts and for never forgetting Michele. That's important to her."

Carl Dorr, 46, said last night that he was upset that he learned about Clark's arrest from a television reporter's call, instead of from prosecutors. Dorr has been critical of the investigation focusing on him at first.

"It's a relief in one sense," Dorr said of Clark's arrest. "And another side of me is still upset with the way things were handled, having taken so long to get to this point."

Dorr said prosecutors had asked him in 1993 to agree to a plea bargain in which Clark would serve prison time for Michele's case at the same time as his 30-year sentence for Laura Houghteling's murder. But Dorr said he was not interested in any plea bargains, even if it meant finding out where his daughter's body is.

"I'd trade a guilty verdict on a capital murder charge any day of the week for continuing to not know how he got rid of Michele," Dorr said.

Police said that the new DNA results didn't suddenly clinch the case and that no tests have confirmed that the blood on the floor boards actually came from Michele.

Montgomery County State's Attorney Robert L. Dean conceded yesterday that Clark's prosecution will be based largely on circumstantial evidence and the testimony of prison informants.

Detectives believed that completion of the latest testing, which uses the most sophisticated DNA analysis available, meant they had exhausted all possible leads in a case they said has long pointed to Clark, police said.

"Submitting the floor boards for mitochondrial DNA [testing] was pretty much the end. We've concluded our case," said Lt. Mike Garvey, one of the original detectives on the case who is now supervisor of the Montgomery homicide detective unit. "We went to the nth degree to make sure everything was forensically tested."

Clark is in prison for killing Houghteling, 23, in 1992. She had disappeared from her Bethesda bedroom. Clark, who had worked as a handyman and part-time gardener for the Houghteling family, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in her slaying -- her throat was slashed -- and led police to her body buried in a lot off Interstate 270 and Old Georgetown Road.

By then, Clark was already the chief suspect in Michele's disappearance. The child was last seen May 31, 1986, when her father said she went to play in a wading pool in his back yard on Sudbury Road. She walked out the back door, barefoot, a colorful towel dragging behind her.

Police said yesterday they have a good idea of what happened next. Several of Clark's fellow inmates have told authorities since he was imprisoned for Houghteling's murder that Clark talked about killing a little neighbor girl years earlier.

Clark told one inmate that he came upon Michele that day in his niece's bedroom, police said. His niece was 5 at the time and a playmate of Michele, who on weekends visited her father who lived two doors down.

On the afternoon Michele disappeared, Clark had gone to his brother's home to move out the last of his belongings. Upon finding Michele, he told a fellow inmate, he cut her with a knife, put her body in a duffel bag and loaded the bag into his truck, according to court documents filed yesterday. Clark told the inmate that he cleaned up the blood and then went to work, police said.

Since 1986, police have searched at least a dozen locations, from Bethesda to Cape Cod, with cadaver-sniffing dogs and ground-penetrating radar, to no avail. Garvey would not say whether Clark was speaking with detectives after his arrest yesterday or whether Clark might pinpoint the location of Michele's body.

The question of charging Clark in Michele's disappearance has pitted Montgomery police against county prosecutors for several years.

Montgomery detectives have long lobbied the state's attorney's office to go ahead with a murder charge, arguing that the case against Clark was unlikely to get any stronger. Also, detectives argued that their case would weaken over time, as detectives grew older and retired, the scant physical evidence deteriorated and the memories of the relatively few witnesses in the case faded.

Dean, speaking at a news conference, would not elaborate on why the additional DNA testing persuaded prosecutors to go forward with the case.

"We're now satisfied we have enough evidence to proceed," Dean said. "I won't get into specifics of the evidence. We'll handle that at trial. . . . I insisted all these tests be done before we charged him." He said that trying a murder case without a body is "difficult, certainly, but not impossible."

Dean, who last week was defeated in his bid to be reelected state's attorney, said his office was in no hurry to prosecute Clark for murder, largely because the suspect, already imprisoned for Houghteling's slaying, wasn't going anywhere.

Prosecutors knew that if they put Clark on trial and lost, the abduction of Michele Dorr would likely go forever unpunished. But police have said that the state's attorney's office preferred to wait, hoping Clark eventually would confess.

The prosecution of Clark even was raised in the primary races for Montgomery state's attorney. Dean's challengers suggested repeatedly that Dean might "play politics" with the case and announce Clark's arrest on the eve of his primary election.

Montgomery detectives drove Clark from prison to police headquarters for questioning about 2 p.m. yesterday, leading him through a back door and out of the view of reporters and television cameras. The sight of television cameras had flustered and angered Clark in the past, and police said detectives wanted to keep him calm before questioning him.

Clark left police headquarters at 8:45 p.m. after six hours of questioning. Detectives declined to comment on the interview. They planned to take him to the Montgomery County jail to be formally charged and then planned to drive him back to prison. He probably will be held there pending his trial, police said.

Police have said for years that the similarities between Houghteling's murder and the way Michele vanished made them certain that Clark was behind both. In both cases, the killer had scrubbed the crime scene clean and hidden the body.

When asked on separate occasions about each disappearance, Clark told detectives that "he may have blacked out and did something," according to charging documents filed in court yesterday.

Last summer, Clark told a Washington Post reporter during a prison interview that he had slashed Houghteling's throat and stashed her body for seven months because he "snapped off and did something stupid." But when it came to the disappearance of Michele Dorr, he didn't want to to talk. "The M.D.," Clark said, "I don't talk about that."

Clark Arrested in Dorr Killing

Convicted killer Hadden Clark has been charged with the killing of Michele Dorr, the Silver Spring 6-year-old girl who disappeared from her back yard in 1986. Dorr's body has never been found.

May 1986: Michele Dorr, 6, disappears from the back yard of her father's Silver Spring home. At the time, Hadden Clark, a restaurant kitchen worker, is living with his older brother a few houses away.

June 1986: Michele's father, Carl, becomes the prime suspect. Over several months, he is questioned and submits to two polygraph tests, to being hypnotized and being injected with Amytal Sodium (so-called truth serum). He is never charged. During this time, police also question Clark. The investigation slows to a virtual halt.

October 1992: Laura Houghteling, 23, a Harvard graduate, is reported missing from her Bethesda home. Clark did occasional gardening for her family.

November 1992: Police charge Clark with the murder of Houghteling after finding his bloody fingerprint on a pillowcase belonging to Houghteling. Police then search for her body in central New Jersey after Clark suggest he buried "them" in a state where he had lived in as a child. The body is not found. Police begin to look intensely at Clark again as a suspect in the disappearance of Michele Dorr.

January 1993: Looking for signs of Houghteling's and Dorr's bodies, police twice search the woods in Wellfleet, Mass., at a property once owned by Clark's grandfather.

June 1993: Clark pleads guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Houghteling, leading police to a shallow grave not far from Houghteling's home, where her body is recovered. Clark is given a 30-year prison sentence.

October 1995: Police in Warwick, R.I., search a storage locker rented to Clark and seize several items, but none is definitely tied to Michele's disappearance.

May 1995: Police again search the storage locker in Rhode Island.

September 1995: Police return to the former Clark property and cemetery in Wellfleet with radar and specially trained dogs, unsuccessfully looking for traces of Michele Dorr. At the same time, investigators discover traces of blood in the bedroom of the house where Clark was living at the time of Michele's disappearance.

September 1998: Police arrest and charge Clark with the killing of Michele Dorr based on new DNA evidence.

SOURCE: Staff reports


© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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