Something changed inside Maurice Clemmons in 2009.
People who knew, in some cases loved, the notorious cop killer told a Pierce County jury Monday that Clemmons went from being a regular guy to a person convinced he was Jesus Christ.
“One minute, he says he’s a man of God; the next minute, he says he is God,” testified Joseph Pitts, who worked for Clemmons for more than two years.
Pitts and three others took the stand on behalf of Douglas Davis, one of four friends or associates of Clemmons charged with helping him after he gunned down four Lakewood police officers Nov. 29, 2009.
Davis’ attorney, Kent Underwood, told jurors during opening statements earlier this month that his client tagged along with Clemmons after the killings of Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Tina Griswold, Greg Richards and Ronald Owens because he feared Clemmons.
Underwood spent the first day of the defense case trying to elicit testimony bolstering that claim. He called Davis’ mother, Loraine Cottrell; Clemmons’ brother-in-law Nelson Carlisle; Clemmons’ uncle Faron Clemmons; and Pitts, Davis’ good friend.
They testified about the change that occurred in Clemmons the summer before the shootings, and Pitts and Cottrell told the jury Davis was trying to get away from Clemmons in the months before he massacred the officers at a Parkland coffee shop.
Davis couldn’t leave on his own because he owned no mode of transportation and relied on Clemmons – who’d hired him for his landscaping business – for money and housing.
Carlisle talked at length about his relationship with Clemmons and the change that came over him. Clemmons was generous, down to earth, a leader, Carlisle said, until he grew convinced he was Christ.
The change was so profound and Clemmons so convincing that Carlisle began to believe it himself, he testified. The two became estranged, with Carlisle finally rejecting the notion, he said.
During cross-examination, deputy prosecutor Kevin McCann asked Carlisle whether Clemmons ever threatened him or if he’d seen Clemmons threaten anyone.
“No,” Carlisle said.
Cottrell said her son called her in November 2009 to say he needed to come home to Little Rock, Ark., where he grew up.
“He said Maurice was, well, tripping, that he thought he was God,” Cottrell said.
She testified she told her son she’d send him money in early December when she got paid. By then, Davis had been arrested along with co-defendants Rickey Hinton, Letricia Nelson and Eddie Davis.
Prosecutors allege they provided Clemmons with transportation, medical aid and other help after the shootings. They all have pleaded not guilty to various counts of first-degree rendering criminal assistance.
Nelson and the Davises also face weapons charges.
Faron Clemmons told jurors other relatives began describing Clemmons as demanding, domineering, even intimidating.
“It’s his way, or nobody’s way,” Faron Clemmons said. “If he can intimidate you, then he’s going to control you.”
Pitts was the last witness on the stand. He talked about recruiting Douglas Davis to Washington to go to work for Clemmons and about how Davis relied on Clemmons for everything from transportation to housing.
Pitts testified that he became fearful of Clemmons when he began proclaiming himself to be God.
“Everybody knows what God does: He gives and takes life,” Pitts said. “(Clemmons) probably thinks he can take life. Who wouldn’t be afraid?”
During cross-examination by McCann, Pitts said there was only one time he heard Clemmons threaten to kill anyone. That was in May 2009, when Clemmons was booked into jail on suspicion of assaulting an officer.
Clemmons told officers at the jail, “I’ll kill all you bitches,” Pitts testified.
The defense case may pick up again today, weather permitting.
Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644 firstname.lastname@example.org