Executions · Famous Last Words · New Mexico

FLW: Fifteen Minutes

Famous Last Words
Terry Doug Clark
Santa Fe, New Mexico
November 6, 2001

“Fifteen minutes.”

Clark was executed for the 1986 rape and murder of 9-year-old Dena Lynn Gore from Artesia, New Mexico. Clark kidnapped Dena, raped her, shot her in the back of the head three times, and buried her in a shallow grave. Her body was found five days after her disappearance.

The murder occurred while Clark was released on bond for the rape of a 6-year-old girl in 1984; her name is withheld to protect her identity. She was found wandering on a rural road in Roswell, wearing torn and bloody clothing, after Clark left her for dead. Clark was convicted of her rape and sentenced to 24 years in prison but managed to secure a release on bond during an appeal under the condition he stay out of Roswell.

Clark’s defense team attempted to show Clark’s recent criminal activities were brought on by head trauma. While he had used various drugs a handful of times in the past, Clark did not have a criminal background. In 1978, while serving a four-year tour of duty for the Navy, Clark stated he was assaulted by a group of men which resulted in behavioral changes. The issues were exacerbated after Clark hit his head on a car door jamb in 1984, two months before the abduction and rape of the Roswell girl. Following the head trauma, Clark’s wife and co-workers noted a marked change in his behavior. Clark’s jurors did not agree with the head injury defense and he was sentenced to death.

Before Clark’s execution by lethal injection he muttered “fifteen minutes” cryptically. Theories about what he meant circulated: Warden Tim LeMaster believed Clark was referencing the book Dead Man Walking; State Attorney General Patricia Madrid believed Clark was saying he would be in Heaven in 15 minutes; others speculate he was commenting on his “15 minutes of fame.” Regardless of his meaning, Clark died eight minutes after the execution began.

Sources:

  • Massey, Barry. “Reporter Gives Firsthand Account of Final Minutes.” Albuquerque Journal [Albuquerque, New Mexico]. November 7, 2001
  • “Child murderer executed in New Mexico.” Associated Press. November 7, 2001
  • Baker, Deborah. “Clark’s motivation for murder remains a mystery.” The New Mexican [Santa Fe, New Mexico]. November 5, 2001
  • Linthicum, Leslie. “Condemned and ready.” Albuquerque Journal [Albuquerque, New Mexico]. October 30, 2001
  • “500 march for strict laws to keep offenders jailed.” El Paso Times [El Paso, Texas]. July 26, 1986

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