Time’s Up, Clarence
UNLESS GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER’S recent motorcycle accident jarred him into a different mentality, a 75-year-old blind and feeble man will be pushed in his wheelchair into the death chamber at San Quentin and, on January 17, become the second man in five weeks to be executed at the infamous prison.
And while the debate for clemency of the last man lethally injected at San Quentin, the notorious Westside Crips leader and later anti-gang spokesman and children’s book author Stanley “Tookie” Williams, made national headlines, little is being made of the impending death of Clarence Ray Allen.
Part of the reason is Allen is not a charismatic leader of an infamous street gang, nor a symbol of redemption to many, nor a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, like Williams was.
Another reason is that Allen, though old and weak, is in many ways the poster boy for death-penalty advocates. He gives them the single best reason to extort the virtues of the death penalty over a life sentence.
While serving a life sentence at Folsom State Prison for a murder for hire in Fresno, he arranged for the killings of the witnesses in his case. His apparent rationale was that he would get a retrial and, boom, voilà, there would be no witnesses because they had all been mysteriously murdered. Not the brightest guy in the joint, this Allen.
The tragedy starts in 1974. According to court documents, he enlisted the help of his son Roger and two employees to rob Fran’s Market, a store east of Fresno owned by Ray and Fran Schletewitz, whom Allen had known for years.
Roger Allen invited the Schletewitz’s son, Bryon, to a party. While Bryon was swimming, someone took his keys. The Allen clan then robbed the store. Later, Roger’s 17-year-old girlfriend, Mary Sue Kitts, confessed to Bryon that she helped cash money orders stolen from the store. Bryon confronted Roger Allen, and also mentioned that Kitts had told him what happened.
Clarence Ray Allen then ordered that Kitts be killed. She was strangled. When Bryon learned Kitts was missing, he went to the authorities.
In 1977, a jury convicted Clarence Ray Allen of burglary, conspiracy and first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life without parole.
In Folsom State Prison, Allen befriended fellow inmate Billy Ray Hamilton, who was soon to be paroled. Allen told him his plans to kill the witnesses, and arranged for Hamilton to be supplied with guns and $25,000.
Not long after his release, Hamilton entered Fran’s Market, brandished a sawed-off shotgun and led Bryon Schletewitz and other employees into the stockroom as he searched for a safe. According to documents, Hamilton shot and killed Bryon Schletewitz, Douglas White, 18, and Josephine Rocha, 17.
Hamilton also shot a 17-year-old clerk, who was left for dead but survived. A neighbor who heard the shotgun blasts went to investigate. Hamilton shot the neighbor, who then shot Hamilton.
Days later, a wounded Hamilton was arrested while robbing a liquor store. Police found a list of names and information on eight people who had testified against Allen, including Bryon Schletewitz and his father, Ray Schletewitz.
Both Allen and Hamilton were eventually convicted of the killings and sentenced to death row at San Quentin. They both have outlived the parents of Bryon Schletewitz.
“Bryon’s mom, Francis, she just went into shock,” said Clayton Schletewitz, first cousin to Bryon’s father, Ray. “She set up a shrine to Bryon. Her and Ray turned gray. They became reclusive. They just fell apart.”
Francis died several years ago, but Ray hung on, propelled by the January 17 death date for the man who ordered the death of his son.
“The only thing I’m living for is January 17,” the 71-year-old Ray Schletewitz told his cousin Clayton about four months ago. He had planned on going to the death chamber to witness the execution.
It was not to be. In fall 2005, while riding a bicycle, Ray Schletewitz was struck and killed by a car.
“He had expected to be there,” said Clayton Schletewitz. “I wasn’t going to go up there, but the only reason I would go would be to represent Ray and Francis.”
ALLEN IS THE OLDEST INMATE on death row in San Quentin. He would be the second-oldest inmate executed since the U.S. Supreme Court made capital punishment legal again in 1976, according to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. The oldest was John Nixon, who was 77 when he died by lethal injection on December 14 for a 1985 Mississippi murder.
And that’s basically the foundation for his attorney’s appeal for clemency.
“He’s been reduced to an incapacitated old man, near death already,” Allen’s appeals attorney, Michael Satris, told USA Today. “To put him to death on top of that is beyond the borders of civilized behavior.”
Bryon Schletewitz’s family doesn’t see it that way.
“If justice would have been done 25 years ago, if he was given the death sentence for his first murder, Bryon would be alive today and he would be the one who could have grown old,” said Clayton Schletewitz, 71, a farmer and former Quaker minister. “The administration of justice is so long in coming, it’s become an injustice. This whole thing has been outrageous. The death penalty doesn’t seem to be working because we really aren’t implementing it.”
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.