Police: Murder suspect had personal relationship with victim ‘for a great period of time’

ST. GEORGE — Washington County Sheriff’s Office hosted a press conference Wednesday afternoon to discuss the arrest of a Springdale man charged with murder.

Washington County Sheriff’s Lt. David Crouse and Chief Deputy Nate Brooksby host a press conference, Hurricane, Utah, Oct. 9, 2019 | Photo by Ryann Richardson, St. George News

Detectives arrested 51-year-old Jason Howard Clinger and transported him to Purgatory Correctional Facility, where he is being held on $100,000 bond and faces a first-degree felony charge of murder.

According to a press release issued by Lt. David Crouse, deputies received a call reporting suspicious activity in Apple Valley on Tuesday, but the caller refused to provide further details.

Officials were told the caller — later identified as Clinger’s girlfriend, Lucy Truitt — would speak to them once they arrived on scene but withheld where they were specifically located other than a general, rural area. Truitt reportedly told police, “We are harmless and need help from the County Sheriff.”

Chief Deputy Nate Brooksby said it is “extremely unusual” for deputies to hesitate, but they became suspicious of the caller’s intentions.

“It just didn’t feel right,” he said. “It’s not normal. So we think of maybe an ambush situation, or what’s this person’s intent? At that time, administration made the decision to delay the response until we could get some information.”

Officials arrived at Plataclay Mine in Apple Valley to find 50-year-old Todd Clayton Stratton dead near his vehicle. Stratton appeared to have died from injuries consistent with gunshot wounds, Crouse said.

Jason Howard Clinger, 51, booking photo posted in Washington County, Utah, Oct. 8, 2019 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Clinger and Stratton, he said, had known each other “for a great period of time,” dating back to grade school. The pair had entered into a civil contract regarding some property Stratton owned. Their disagreement had been ongoing for years, Crouse said, stemming from a dispute on whether agreed-upon services were being provided.

On the day of the alleged murder, the two were engaged in a heated, verbal altercation that became physical. Crouse said Clinger retreated into a house on the property to retrieve a firearm before returning outside and shooting Stratton. Clinger and Truitt were residing in the home at the time of the incident. Truitt is considered a person of interest in the investigation, but she is also acting as a cooperating witness, Crouse said.

“We’re not going to go into what his entire statements were, but they (Clinger and Truitt) were able to give substantial information to establish probable cause for the arrest of murder,” Crouse said.

There was no indication that drugs or alcohol were involved, but officials are still waiting on the final autopsy results to confirm. The circumstances of the incident are still under investigation.

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