Jury Finds Clemens Guilty Of Locking Son in Hot Car

A jury found Stephen Clemens guilty Thursday on allegations he left his 9-year-old stepson inside a locked car in a parking lot at The Highlands last July while Clemens and the boy’s mother attempted to shoplift.

Clemens, 25, was convicted by a jury in Ohio County Circuit Court on one count of child neglect creating substantial risk of serious bodily injury or death and one count of entering without breaking.

He was remanded to the custody of the sheriff’s department at the conclusion of the trial and transported to the Northern Regional Jail in Moundsville. He will remain in jail while awaiting a sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.

The panel of eight woman and four men deliberated for a little over 75 minutes before returning their verdict at about 4:15 p.m. Thursday.

“The state is pleased that the jury considered the evidence and found what we believed all along was the right result,” said Assistant Prosecutor Shawn Turak.

Clemens originally was charged with an additional count of entering without breaking. The first was for when he entered the store with his wife, Jeanette Darnley, and the boy; the second was for when he re-entered the store after taking the boy to the parking lot.

After the prosecution rested its case, Judge James Mazzone granted Keith Hart’s motion to dismiss the charge related to Clemens’ first entrance to the store. Mazzone ruled the state had failed to show enough evidence to present the second count to the jury.

Clemens declined to take the stand, and the defense called no witnesses. Parties then voiced their final arguments before Mazzone instructed the jury and they adjourned to deliberate.

“Nonetheless, it’s still a sad case all the way around,” Turak added. “It’s sad for the child, it’s sad for his mother, it’s sad for the defendant.”

Darnley accepted a plea agreement and last week pleaded guilty to child neglect. As a part of the agreement, she testified against Clemens on Wednesday. She said her son now lives with his father in Parkersburg, and she his only permitted to see him for two hours weekly.

The boy took the stand on Wednesday as well, and affectionately referred to Clemens throughout his testimony as “Steve-O.”

Sheriff’s Deputy Rich White on Thursday testified that before he left Darnley and her son to arrest Clemens on the day of the crime, the boy asked White to tell Clemens that he loves him.

Darnley was caught on store surveillance returning items she did not purchase for store credit. Another video shows Clemens concealing a pile of clothes in the store, which helped convince the jury he also intended to steal that day.

White arrived on scene after store employees reported Darnley’s shoplifting. While he sat in his cruiser, a man who saw the boy in the car notified the deputy of the situation.

White testified that the boy told him “I thought my worst fears were coming true: I thought someone was going to kidnap me.”

Clemens left the boy alone inside his car with the doors locked and a single window cracked. The boy was inside the vehicle for about 11 minutes, and White said the juvenile was “covered in sweat” when he found him.

State climatologist Dr. Kevin Law testified temperatures around that time reached as high as 88 degrees and the heat index made it feel like 95. He noted a single window cracked slightly would do little do dissipate heat inside the car and it could quickly reach 110 degrees.