Case Closed

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To escape him, Chester said, she sometimes wouldn't answer her door. If he knew she was inside, he wouldn't leave until he saw her. He'd shout at her that he paid the bills around here. She'd shoot back that she never asked him to. Sometimes when she didn't return his calls, he canceled her phone service.

Clark in a June 20 interview with New Times: "Well, you see, she needed a place to stay. She had no job, so she couldn't put no money down. I never lived there. It was her apartment. I was trying to help."

NT: "Did you have your own key and enter her apartment whenever you wanted?"

Clark: "No, uh-uh, of course not."

Chester's neighbor Francis Stringer remembered the man everyone called "Sarge" visiting Chester often. She picked Clark from a photo lineup for investigators. She told them Clark had his own key to Chester's apartment and would wait for her if she wasn't in. She remembered one night in particular. He stopped by but Chester was out, so Clark sat in the kitchen all night waiting for her. Stringer said Chester described him as a friend who gave her money when she needed it. She also remembered Chester saying she did not want Clark around her.

Chester's problems did not begin and end with Walter Clark's presence in her life. Coping with limits on her freedom set her on a collision course with the system that was trying to give her a second chance. In 1998 her probation officer, Roger Pickles, ordered her to take a random drug test. Chester hit positive for marijuana and cocaine. She was jailed briefly before being routed to a drug program. Another time Pickles spot-checked her apartment and she was out in violation of her 6:00 p.m. curfew.

Clark rose to defend her, visiting the probation office in full uniform with Chester's mother. Pickles was out so he met instead with supervisor Maria DiBernardo. Clark complained that Pickles seemed more intent on harming Chester than helping her, so could she please have a new probation officer? Afterward Clark sent a note: "Our goal is to assist in helping Ms. Chester succeed in this time of need. We thank you for your help and consideration concerning this matter. With kind regards, Walter G. Clark."

Pickles did hand off Chester, though whether it was the result of Clark's visit isn't clear. "Subject has even convinced a family friend, who is a Dade County Correctional Sergeant, to advocate for her," Pickles warned in a memo. "Sergeant attempts to use his official title as a way of intimidating and influencing subject's probation officers. Caution should be used in supervising this case."

The probation violation did something else for Chester: It made her wonder if Clark was somehow behind it, as he had threatened before. Maybe, just maybe, she should do as he says.

Clark to New Times: "I don't want you to write a story saying I was holding probation over her head. It's not true. Why would I go before a judge to get her off probation? It doesn't make sense. That's all I want you to understand. She had to say this to save face with her friend [Pettigrew]. He's putting her up to these lies."

At one point, Chester told investigators, Clark threatened to have her probation revoked if she didn't participate in a threesome with Chester's female roommate, who had been flirting with Clark. This time Chester complied. But it disturbed her. Like a pimp, Clark was successfully turning her out. Afterward she told Clark to cut off the utilities, the phone -- she didn't care. Clark responded by canceling the lease on February 3, 1999: "I am requesting an immediate release of my legal obligation from my seven month contract. Enclosed are keys to apartment #14 & keys to the mailbox. ... THIS SITUATION IS URGENT! Sincerely, Walter Clark, tenant."

She was adrift again. Clark kept on her. Now she had to visit his house. At first she resisted, but said that Clark told her: "You know I'm the man. I can get you sent back to jail anytime." So she'd visit him a few times a month and don the little negligee he gave her and strip to music he played. Then they'd have sex. Other times, she said, they'd cruise Biscayne Boulevard looking for a woman he could pay to join them. She told investigators he liked handcuffs in bed. One time he had her locked up tight and lost the key. A cop friend had to stop by with an extra key. She kept the cuffs, marked TGK-42, and gave them to internal-affairs investigators.

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Tristram Korten
Contact: Tristram Korten