Man Charged with Killing Girlfriend and Keeping Her Corpse in His Bed for Weeks Set for Trial

After a preliminary hearing John Clauer was held over trial and charged with murdering Heather Stearns, 30, in his East Cliff Drive Apartment and keeping her body in his bed for more than 18 days.

SANTA CRUZ, Calif.—Neighbors said they heard an unusual noise from John Clauer's studio apartment on April 7, 2011.

It was the sound of his girlfriend, Heather Stearns, 30, calling quietly for help, her normally loud voice hushed and gasping.

Santa Cruz Police detective Elizabeth Butler told Judge Ariadne Symons that neighbors David Zentner and his girlfriend Louann Siurop often heard sounds of struggles and screaming from apartment number 7, with which they shared a wall.

But this was the only time they heard a call for help. However, they did nothing about it but turn up the television on this night at about 6 p.m. When Butler questioned the couple almost three weeks later, they told a shocking tale of what they heard through the adjoining wall.

"He said he definitely recognized her voice," the detective said of Mr. Zentner. "He heard Heather and she said, 'No, get off me. No. Leave me alone. Stop. Stop. Stop it. Get off me, John.'

"The last thing he heard was Heather saying very faintly, 'Help' in a low, faint tone of voice. It was weird, strange, unusual. Not the way Heather spoke."

Then, the detective continued, the couple heard six or seven loud stomps, strong enough to shake the whole second floor and what felt like the whole building at 1104 East Cliff Dr.

Prosecutors Jason Gill and Jeff Rosell contend those noises were the blows that killed Stearns, who was found with a serious of serious injuries including a broken chestbone, major trauma to the head and strangulation.

Defense attorney Zachariah Schwartzbach argued that Stearns died from a possibly fatal blood alcohol level of .35, more than four times the legal limit and an amount that medical examiner Dr. Richard Mason said was at the low end of the spectrum for a fatal amount of alcohol.

Judge Symons threw out that argument saying that the fact that Clauer, 63,  kept the body in his apartment and didn't report the death did not support a claim of innocence.

She set an arraignment date for May 9 for one of the most gruesome cases in recent Santa Cruz memory.

Disturbing details of violence, alcohol abuse and neglect came out during the one-day hearing.

Neighbors in the 10-unit apartment building, which is right on a heavily-trafficked curve on East Cliff between the view of the Beach Boardwalk and Seabright, complained about a horrid smell, but it took nearly three weeks to track it down.

"It was a rancid smell," said Santa Cruz Police officer Matthew Mulvihill, who was called to the scene April 26 by neighbors complaining about the smell. "It smelled like a dead body."

Mulvihill tracked the smell to Apartment 7 and knocked on the door. No one answered, but he said that Clauer, who had passed him downstairs, finally came up and opened the door.

When he asked Clauer what the smell was, Clauer told him, "Something went foul."

The officer said he looked around the apartment, including in the bathroom, before he spotted a badly decomposed body on the bed, lying on its left side, facing the wall. He said he couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman and the skin had turned black.

Stearns and Clauer had been together for a year, the judge was told, and Stearns lived in the apartment but never had a key for it. Both had extensive criminal records of alcohol and drug abuse.

Neighbors said that every three days or so they heard Stearns yell "stop" and "get off me" and what sounded like loud struggles in the apartment, according to detective Butler. They said that Stearns was often yelling and ordering Clauer around.

But Siurop told Butler she was afraid to ask Clauer about the noises on April 7 because she was afraid of him.




Scotty Happy April 26, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Dirty old man
christine April 26, 2012 at 11:14 PM
So, just wondering why everyone is showing such spite for the neighbors.... I would have to shift the blame to the sick SOB who beat her to death and then kept her in the bed for 18 days. as I like to say "people who live in glass houses... shouldnt throw rocks. Karma can be a nasty little bitch!
Brenda Drowne April 26, 2012 at 11:14 PM
it pissed me off too! Can you imagine hearing a cry for helpm and do nothing but turn up the television? I think those two should be punished too. Would you want someone to ignore your cries.How cold could you be?
Jamie Cruz April 26, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Susan, That was fricken hilarious!!! You made my day!! Thanks
Pam0528 April 26, 2012 at 11:35 PM
I feel you Mary, I'm over here feeling the same way. Those people heard her call out for help and on one did nothing. They may have been achololics but that shouldn't have caused this woman's death. My thoughts and prayers to out to this woman's family.
Pam0528 April 26, 2012 at 11:38 PM
How old is he? They said she is only 30, he looks like he is 70 years old, smh.
Rebecca April 26, 2012 at 11:44 PM
I really haven't heard anyone saying this woman was a saint. And I do blame the neighbors. A near death situation could maybe have turned her life around when she realized what drugs and drinking were doing to her. But these neighbors didn't even give that a chance to happen. I agree with everyone who says no one would want that to happen to their child, parent, or even a friend!
Samantha Dale April 26, 2012 at 11:58 PM
I have neighbors that fight all the time and I get sick of it. They get drunk and fight almost every Monday night. If I walk out the door of my house the boyfriend screams at me and uses profanity in the worse way. When I call the police, they go talk to them and then tell me they can't do anything unless they actually see them fighting...so sick of stupid and selfish people in this world. The police act as if you're complaining for nothing. It's a no win situation.
Samantha Dale April 27, 2012 at 12:01 AM
Yeah, I speak up all the time and all I get is in trouble with my neighbors...what good does it do? Believe me...been there, done that. If the police doesn't do their part. you're left with neighbors bullying you.
Samantha Dale April 27, 2012 at 12:02 AM
and when you call the police it doesn't do any good anyway.
Linda Mattos April 27, 2012 at 12:04 AM
Pamela, I was wondering the same thing, it seems like an odd setup/situation. And why did he leave her in his bed. You would think he would have disposed of her body. He has to know that when an animal or person dies there is going to be an odor. Maybe he wanted to be caught? The whole thing is strange and very sad. Sad that the neighbors did nothing, sad that she died and sad that a person can beat and kill another human being and think little of it.
isabel medina April 27, 2012 at 12:05 AM
What took you so long? LOL
Samantha Dale April 27, 2012 at 12:07 AM
believe me, I have neighbors just like them. My husband passed away and it's just me and my son. When they fight it scares me so bad I start to shake. He has the loudest meanest voice. When I call the police it doesn't do any good and only makes the neighbors mad at me, and believe me, it's no fun not to be able to walk out your door without smart remarks. This is an unfair world we live in and the police even start to get annoyed with me for calling. It's a shame because she has kids and one of these days someone will get hurt. We need better laws to deal with these types of people.
Brad Kava (Editor) April 27, 2012 at 01:08 AM
he is 63
jwb April 27, 2012 at 01:34 AM
must have been my ex..
Jominan April 27, 2012 at 01:42 AM
The pathetic old coot kills a woman and sleeps by her body? What else did he do? The pathetic neighbors actually clearly hear the world "help" and do nothing? I think every one of them is guilty.
Black British April 27, 2012 at 01:51 AM
Hindsight is always 20/20. If the neighbors were used to hearing them fighting, then what would make them think this was different then usual - especially if she usually cried for help AND STAYED WITH HIM!!!
shamsi April 27, 2012 at 02:03 AM
So , so sad for this society, nobody cares any more. Susan, thanks for the laugh, I needed that.
ron l mckinney April 27, 2012 at 02:14 AM
your are sick but funny lol thanks
John Hannon-Connecticut April 27, 2012 at 02:33 AM
This is no big deal...seriously now. If I did this, I wouldn't care one bit. We all think gory thoughts like this so whats wrong about acting them out? This guy shouldn't be charged with anything. We have bigger issues in the world to worry about.
Barbara H. April 27, 2012 at 02:41 AM
lol Susan..why did you wait so long?
L west April 27, 2012 at 04:07 AM
turned up the tv.....so sad!
Pablo April 27, 2012 at 04:16 AM
Because they are stupid.
Jamie April 27, 2012 at 07:57 AM
And that my friends is what happens when you continue to live in the clutches of 'domestic violence'! If this is love, thank god i live alone and love myself enough that i don't need anyone around me. I might be lonely, but at least i'm alive and have peace. Why the need for some to put up with this crap is beyond my comprehension.!
Veronica RaRa April 27, 2012 at 08:37 AM
I hope the neighbors hear HELP the rest of their lives !
icl April 28, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Susan, you're hilarious, and thanks for the good laugh! Though the story is horrendous, it's just another disgusting commentary on how low humanity is sinking these days. From the murderer to his despicable neighbors...those neighbors should rot in hell, next to the murderer. But they won't. Probably get off with a slap, knowing the California justice system. Susan, you are a pisser!!
deniceginsberg October 12, 2012 at 12:06 AM
i know david zentner personaly and he new about the women being missing for wks he smelled the smell for wks he was even in the apt before the cops he didnt want to be involved because he has a record for drugs he probly thought she deserved it not his problem that is just how he rolls:{
deniceginsberg October 12, 2012 at 08:45 AM
like i said before davidn zentner knew something was wrong but he didnt care i know this because he was my first love he knocked me up denied it slept with my sister in the next room to mine and that was when he was young i recently contacted him on fb he told me he was dating 7 women and all you had to do was have a big penis and make the women laugh he is a womenizing pig and he told me he was in that apt. before the cops why was he in that apt. it isnt a very big place so if he shared a wall with this guy wouldnt have he noticed something was wrong???? i dont know what to think about all of this but if he wasnt involved in some way like maybe selling drugs to this guy why would he ignor a cry for help or atleast call the cops this guy was 60 plus yrs old david is a tyquando person and in great shape it is just to wierd i think further :|:|investigation should be in order just saying:| david would never be afraid to confront someone even if he wasnt 60 you make your own dicision i am just glad i dumped him 32 yrs ago
a friend March 28, 2013 at 06:35 PM
so true the nieghbors did not kill that women her lover did leave david zentner alone!!!!!!!!!!! it was just a normal day for everyone that lived there domestic violence is a scary deal even the cops are worried when they get called to one of these calls so blame the person who did it!!!!!!!!!
a friend March 28, 2013 at 06:40 PM
I wrote this shit about David because l was mad at him l was his first love and l know he would not do anything to hurt a women he loves them so plz forgive me for implying anything different soooooo sorry David!!!!!!!


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