More than 11 years after the disappearance of a still-missing 9-year-old Oklahoma boy, his aunt and uncle who became his adoptive parents have been convicted of murdering him, PEOPLE confirms.
In fewer than three hours of deliberations, a jury on Monday convicted Rex Clark, 67, and Rebecca Clark, 61, of first-degree murder in the death of Colton Clark, whose body has not been found, Seminole County District Attorney Paul B. Smith, who prosecuted the case, tells PEOPLE.
For years, the mystery of what happened to Colton had troubled law enforcement officials until a break came in 2015: That year, his older brother, T.J. Sloan, who was also adopted by the couple, gave investigators a detailed account of a 2006 night of horrific beatings against Colton that preceded Colton’s disappearance, Smith says.
The couple was also convicted on four counts of child abuse, including the abuse of Sloan. (Sloan, who used to go by the name Homer Clark before he was adopted by a new parent, was the prosecution’s star witness at trial and has given a media interview about his abuse.)
Smith says the couple allegedly used a cattle prod to shock the boys on their genitals. They also repeatedly beat the boys with their fists, coat hangers, a wooden cane and bamboo stalks.
The Clarks face life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder conviction, and four life terms for the child abuse conviction when sentenced on Dec. 11, Smith says.
It was not immediately clear if they planned to appeal. PEOPLE’s call to the Clarks’ attorney, Robert Butler, was not immediately returned.
Couple Reported Colton Missing Weeks After Brother Saw Him Last
Back in 2003, Colton and Sloan were placed by the state with their aunt and uncle due to their biological parents’ alleged substance abuse issues, says Smith. The boys were then adopted by the couple.
One night in 2006, weeks before the Clarks reported Colton missing that April 20, Rex and Rebecca accused Colton of stealing a turquoise ring, Smith says.
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The couple took Colton to a bedroom. As Sloan cleaned the kitchen, he heard his brother yelling and the Clarks yelling, Smith says.
Hours later, at about 3 a.m., Sloan saw his brother lying on a couch, apparently lifeless.
Sloan, 11 at the time, returned to bed. When he awoke to do his chores, he couldn’t find his brother, and Rex and Rebecca wouldn’t say if they knew where he was.
“At this time [Sloan] is an awkward kid, beaten down, and he gets up enough courage to say, ‘We need to call the police, Colton is gone,'” Smith says.
“And Rex kicks [Sloan] in the ribs and says, ‘We are not calling the police and you are not going to tell anyone, and we will say you ran off. And if you tell any different, we will kill you,” says Smith of Sloan’s account.
Weeks later, on April 20, the couple reported Colton missing. His disappearance sparked a massive search involving hundreds of law enforcement officials and volunteers. The search employed drones, helicopters and cadaver dogs, but “nothing got a whiff of him,” says Smith.
The Clarks forced Sloan to lie to investigators about Colton’s disappearance: Sloan had to say that Colton didn’t want to go to an upcoming appointment with a psychologist and ran away, says Smith.
Sloan ran away from the Clarks’ that year, and ended up being raised by a member of the Navy who gave him a stable home. Living in Tennessee, Sloan’s baseball prowess ended up earning him a scholarship to play baseball in college, says Smith.
Disturbing Witness Account
No break in the cold case came until 2015, when an investigator with the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office began taking a new look at it. Media coverage led to Sloan’s contacting law enforcement officials and finally sharing his complete story.
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That, coupled with new evidence, says Smith, filled out the prosecution’s case against the Clarks.
With no remains of Colton’s to help solve the case, prosecutors used the testimony of a witness named Randy Lehman who had installed a storm shelter on the farm in 2013 as part of their evidence.
“Rex was talking about how he’d shoot anybody who would come on his property,” says Smith. “And when Randy went to leave, he said, ‘Don’t shoot my boy when he comes to fix the turbine.’ And Rex said, ‘If I do, I will cut it up, put it in a barrel, cook it, feed the body to my five dogs and scoop the bones and throw the rest in the river.”
“That,” says Smith, “was one of many disgusting things in the trial.”