Cortez Journal

Man gets 11 years for Clark murder

Oct.14, 2000

By Jim Mimiaga
Journal Staff Writer

The last of three admitted killers of Ute Mountain Ute tribal member Ritche Clark more than a year ago was sent to prison Friday, the Justice Department has reported.

Alden P. House, 18, was sentenced by Chief Judge Lewis Babcock to 11 1/4 years’ imprisonment for his role in the beating death of Clark. House was a minor when the murder was committed.

Citing the nature of the offense, and a prior record, Babcock approved prosecution of House as an adult in May. House was then indicted by a federal grand jury for second-degree murder, and aiding and abetting in that offense.

Clark died on or about Feb. 24 in a wooded area near Towaoc from severe head and chest injuries inflicted by House and two other tribal members — Karla Silas, 29, and Thomas Tom, 25 — according to court documents and testimony.

Silas and Tom both pleaded guilty for their involvement in the murder earlier this year, and are serving prison sentences of four and seven years respectively.

The foursome were reportedly drinking friends, but fell into a drunken brawl ending in Clark’s death and an attempted cover-up, according to police and FBI reports. Affidavit reports state that a log was repeatedly used as a weapon against Clark, whose body was moved via a car to a nearby location in attempt to hide him.

No motive in the murder was ever determined.

After hearing direct testimony from those convicted admitting guilt, family members and friends contacted local tribal leaders and BIA investigators and a ground search was conducted March 2. Clark’s body discovered the following day in a shallow ditch.

"I hope that his sentencing resolves the case for the community," said BIA police chief Dusty Whiting. "There was some frustration at the long process leading up to the arrest and sentencing, but it is important to be very thorough in dealing with cases like these."

Whiting credits a stepped-up community-policing philosophy for the reduction in violent crimes on the Ute Mountain reservation since Clark’s murder.

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