Daniel Ray Wilkes – white, age 37

Sentenced in Clark County, Indiana
By: a jury
Date of crime: April 23, 2006
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Wilkes murdered Donna Lee Joy Claspell (age 38) and her daughters Avery Pike (age 13) and Sydne Claspell (age 8) in their home. Wilkes met and befriended Donna Claspell while they were in an in-patient drug rehabilitation facility in Evansville. After completing treatment, Wilkes moved in with Donna and her two daughters. Shortly thereafter, Wilkes began molesting Avery. While intoxicated and under the influence of drugs (tequila, xanax, methamphetamine) Wilkes murdered Donna in her bed, beating her with a hammer and wooden level. He also cut her throat with a knife. Wilkes also murdered Sydne in Donna’s bedroom, beating her with the hammer and level. Wilkes then went to Avery’s bedroom and strangled her with a sports bra. He left her naked, face down in bed with her hands tied behind her back and one of her legs tied to the footboard of the bed. During confessions, Wilkes admitted to beating Donna Claspell and strangling Avery Pike but claimed he did not remember killing Sydne Claspell. The prosecution presented two aggravating factors: multiple murders and one victim was younger than age 12. The defense argued that Wilkes suffered a difficult childhood in an effort to avoid the death sentence. After the jury deadlocked 11-1 regarding the death sentence, the decision was left with the circuit judge. Indiana does not have a law that requires a judge to sentence defendants to life in prison without parole when a jury cannot reach a unanimous decision regarding the death penalty.
Prosecutor(s): Stan Levco, Donita Farr
Defense lawyer(s): Barbara Williams, Kurt Schnepper
Sources: Evansville Courier & Press 12/2/07 (2007 WLNR 24557550), 12/15/07 (2007 WLNR 25175432), 1/26/08 (1707264); www.14wfie.com/global/story.asp?s=4822339&ClientType=Printable; www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/death/row/wilkesd.htm