Former minor league hockey player Thomas Clayton, who allegedly hired a hitman to kill his wife, was sentenced Monday to the maximum penalty of life in prison without parole.
Clayton was convicted of first- and second-degree murder on February 23 after a nearly seven-week trial, reports Stargazette. He was accused of hiring a hitman, Michael Beard, to beat his wife Kelley to death on September 29, 2015.
Beard was a former employee of Clayton’s. He allegedly killed Kelley for Clayton in exchange for money. He was convicted of the same charges in early November 2016.
The alleged hitman was sentenced to life in prison without parole four days after Clayton’s trial ended.
Beard maintains his innocence and is currently serving his sentence at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York.
Clayton was reportedly at a poker game the night his wife was murdered and called 911 as soon as he arrived home to report that his house had been robbed and that his wife was dead.
He was arrested later that day for Kelley’s murder.
Police followed a tip from a family member to Beard, who initially pointed a finger towards Clayton. But the accused hitman later recanted his statement.
The jury only needed 6 hours to come to a verdict during Clayton’s trial.
Defense Attorney Ray Schlather said that he’s “been doing this 40 years. I have the utmost faith in the jury system. This is one time the jury got it wrong.”
Both of Clayton’s young children were home when their mother was murdered, but both were unharmed.
Charlie, the couple’s daughter who was 7 at the time of the murder, wrote a statement that was read by Kelley’s sister Kim Bourgeois.
“I feel my dad is a coward because he asked Michael Beard to kill my mom.”
Bourgeois said that Charlie suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder since the murder. Cullen, her younger brother who was 3 when his mother was murdered, is restless at night and calls out for her.
The aunt also made a statement at the sentencing.
“The defendant is a skilled sociopath. The defendant’s actions speak volumes. When he was released from jail, he immediately went to be with another woman. He was living large while we were barely hanging on.”
Before being sentenced, Clayton was given the chance to make his own statement. Beginning with a bible verse, he thanked Kelley’s family for taking care of his children ‘until I get them back.’
“There are two families that lost something in this tragedy. My children lost their mother and were ripped away from their father. I’m sorry Kelley is dead. I’m sorry that I can’t see my kids. I had absolutely nothing to do with the death of Kelley, absolutely.”
Clayton was sentenced to 25 years for the second-degree murder charge.
Schlather said he intends to file a notice of appeal with the court on Tuesday.