A contractor from Virginia who was already registered as a sex offender has been found guilty for the rape and strangulation murder of a college administrator after she complained about the quality of his work on her deck.
Thomas Clark, 61, was found guilty for first-degree murder, rape and abduction in connection with the death of 53-year-old Suzanne Fairman, an operational administrator at Virginia Commonwealth University’s academic learning transformation lab.
The jury reached their verdict after deliberating for just an hour and 20 minutes. All three charges carry a potential sentence of up to life in prison.
Police say Clark, who is in the Henrico County jail, was arrested in May 2019 on unrelated charges. That arrest came one week after the death of Fairman.
He was accused of tying Fairman up, sexually assaulting her in the master bedroom and then strangling her in the bathroom.
‘There is a huge amount of relief,’ said Fairman’s son, Scott. ‘I know these last two-and-a-half-years have been dreadful for my family and my friends and everybody in our life and with this verdict I just feel like everybody can begin to heal.’
Fairman is scheduled to be sentenced on February 14, 2022. Fairman expressed a desire for a life sentence on all three counts.
Clark’s attorney said that his client maintains his innocence and right of appeal, despite respecting the jury’s decision.
Thomas Clark, 59 (left), has been indicted on charges of murder, rape and abduction with intent to defile in the May slaying of Suzanne Fairman, 53 (right)
Fairman’s home in the 4700 block of Tanglewood Road in Richmond, Virginia, is pictured
A search warrant affidavit says Fairman was killed after complaining to Clark’s supervisor about the quality of work on her deck (pictured)
On May 9, Clark showed up at the woman’s house under the guise of finishing the deck project
A bloody knife was found on a nearby counter in Fairman’s home in the 4700 block of Tanglewood Road, and the bathtub water was still running when police arrived for a welfare check just after 11pm on May 9, 2019.
Fairman’s relatives in Florida had become concerned and reached out to the police in Richmond after she failed to arrive for a planned vacation.
According to a search warrant affidavit cited by Richmond Times-Dispatch, before her death Fairman complained to Clark’s supervisor at C&C and Son Landscaping and Pressure Wash about some work he had done on her deck.
On May 9, Clark showed up at the woman’s house under the guise of finishing the deck project, but instead he restrained Fairman, sexually assaulted her in her bedroom and ultimately strangled her to death in the bathtub, according to the court documents.
Police found a steak knife in the bathroom sink, a rubber glove and a wet bandana with blood on it. More suspected bloodstains were discovered on the bed in the master bedroom.
The medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Fairman determined that her cause of death was asphyxia.
Fairman’s grown son, Scott, gave an interview at the time, appealing to the public for help with finding his mother’s killer.
‘She was an incredible grandmother; she was a phenomenal mother. She would give even if she had nothing to give,’ he said.
Police interviewed Clark after the murder, but he denied any wrongdoing.
A search warrant affidavit says Fairman, an administrator at Virginia Commonwealth University, was killed at her home in May after complaining to Clark’s supervisor about the quality of work on her deck
Records indicate that in 1988, Clark was convicted in Alexandria, Virginia, of raping a woman and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was also required to register as a sex offender.
In 2005, Clark pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted robbery after he assaulted a woman inside her Richmond home and tried to extort money from her. He was handed a 10-year prison term in that case.
At the time of Fairman’s slaying, Clark was out on bond in connection to an October 2018 case in Henrico County, in which he and two others were arrested on charges of destruction of property, petty larceny, vehicle tampering and distribution of drug paraphernalia.
Clark’s electronic monitoring had been removed just a week prior to the Fairman murder at the request of his attorney.
A week after Fairman was found strangled to death at her home, Clark was picked up by police for failing to comply with his sex offender registry requirements.
‘Knowing Clark was taken into custody so quickly was a relief for everyone involved in the investigation,’ said Major Crimes Captain James Laino. ‘I wish we could have shared that information sooner with the community, but we didn’t want to release his name until we had all the evidence collected to present to the grand jury.’
Fairman, pictured left and right with her son, Scott, had her hands tied and was raped before being asphyxiated to death in the tub. Scott Fairman said he plans to be in court every day for Clark’s trial
In August of 2019, he pleaded no contest to five misdemeanor counts in connection to the October 2018 case out of Henrico and was sentenced to three years in jail.
The 59-year-old contractor was behind bars when detectives came to interview him about the Fairman homicide.
During the conversation, the convict allegedly described the victim as being in ‘good shape’ and also said that she was ‘beaten up and thrown in the tub,’ even though police at the time made no mention of the woman being beaten.
When Clark was confronted about that discrepancy, he replied that he ‘must have heard that from somewhere,’ according to the affidavit.
Prosecutors have not said whether or not they plan to seek the death penalty against Clark.
On the day Clark’s indictment was announced, Scott Fairman expressed full confidence in the criminal justice process.
‘I wholeheartedly trust the prosecutors and Richmond PD, that they know exactly what they’re doing,’ he told WTVR. ‘I need the trial dates and I will be there. Every day.’