Man Who Slept with Corpse Found Guilty of Murder

John Clauer, 66, was found guilty of first-degree murder for beating Heather Stearns, 30, to death and keeping her body in his bed for two weeks.

John Clauer, left; Heather Stearns from Facebook site: For the Love of Heather Stearns
John Clauer, left; Heather Stearns from Facebook site: For the Love of Heather Stearns
After three weeks of trial, Vietnam veteran John Clauer, 66, was found guilty Monday of murdering his alcoholic girlfriend, Heather Stearns, 30 two years ago in their East Cliff Drive apartment.

In a particularly gruesome case, Clauer kept Stearns's body in his bed for two and a half weeks until neighbors complained about the terrible smell and went inside and found the body.

Neighbors said they heard a faint cry for help and sounds of a struggle and stomping from the apartment, but didn't call police. They said fights and shouting were typical from the couple. Prosecutor Jeff Rosell said Clauer supplied alcohol in return for sex from Stearns and killed her after a car he had put in her name was towed away.

Defense attorney Zach Schwartzbach argued that DNA found under Stearn's fingernail pointed to another killer. 

Moments after the verdict was announced by the eight-woman, four-man jury, Stearn's mother posted a plea on a Facebook site called For the Love of Heather Stearns to the community to report crimes they suspect and lamented that no one came out to support Stearns.

"For a parent there is no greater heartache than losing a child. It is especially traumatic when they are taken in such a violent manner. Adding insult to injury, the media coverage from our local newspaper set the tone; “Slain woman, troubled life;a serial inebriate;a list of arrests for public drunkenness then going on to list the dates and number of times arrested. She was a nuisance to the community”; she was just a drunk. 

There was no community compassion or empathy for the brutal murder of Heather. She was not a store owner or a public servant. No flowers were left at the scene, no vigils were held. I know Heather was no angel and you’ve heard about Heather’s bad behavior. The fact remains, she was a human being who was brutally beaten and strangled to death. As with other victims of murder, Heather leaves behind family and friends who loved her and grieve for their loss.

Alcohol took over Heather’s life and she changed because of it. Heather tried, many times, to get sober.Heather used to be thoughtful, sweet, loving and full of dreams, one of which was to be a veterinarian. Heather would show up at my house sobbing and say, “Mom, I can’t take this anymore”. I always considered Heather’s drinking a choice, right up to the weeks she stayed with me shortly before she was brutally murdered. I was wrong. Alcoholism is a horrible disease and played out like mental illness. I look back and think how stupid I was to think it was her choice to drink. It was not her choice, it was the disease.

Heather was not John Clauer’s girlfriend! Heather was there to get alcohol and he just happened to be the supplier. The fact is, Heather was a frightened little girl hiding in alcohol. Heather once told me she was uncomfortable in her own skin. Heather started drinking at the end of her senior year, experimenting, as many of us did as teens. Unfortunately, Heather was not prepared for life on the streets. Heather was a shy, naïve, lost teenager who didn’t know where she fit in. People on the street accepted her. Heather met people much more seasoned at life on the streets. Men took advantage of her. Heather’s life was hard. Anger and bitterness had taken over and many attempts at getting sober failed. 

To John Clauer; you preyed on vulnerable women so you could take advantage of and control them. I think of how frightened my daughter must have been. You are the face of evil. You took Heather’s life, a shy, naïve, lost young woman, by brutally beating and strangling her to death. You killed any hope that Heather could one day get sober and fulfill her dreams. You killed my child who was loved by her family and friends. You are a coward and a psychopath. You should rot in prison for the rest of your life without the possibility of ever doing this to another human being.

To the community;if you hear someone screaming for help, please, call 911. No matter the history of a neighbor or their lifestyle, whatever the circumstances, don’t look the other way, don’t turn your TV up to drown out the screaming and don’t say it’s none of my business, call 911, you could save someone’s life.

Lastly, to Heather, I miss my best friend, you were my heart. Even though you are gone, I think of you every day and I have my memories that will last forever."

Clauer could be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. 

Read trial coverage here: http://santacruz.patch.com/groups/police-and-fire/p/da-man-murdered-girlfriend-and-then-slept-in-bed...

Kaos8 February 01, 2014 at 10:08 AM
Sad to say, and adult with addiction or mental illness rarely gets help, unless they want it. Unfortunately, the laws make it difficult for family members or loved ones to get too involved. In many cases it has to be brought to the courts and many judges and law officials do not want to get involved- unless it is a serious case. Honestly, you can't blame the legal system for wanting to kind of steer clear- becuase of everyone being soo sue-happy, not to mention- rarely does law enforcement get the real, full story- unless the person with addiction or mental illness is a frequent flier with the wrong side of the law. My heart goes out to this family. No matter how you look at it, it is a tragedy.
Larissa Watt February 01, 2014 at 11:41 PM
Neighbors heard sounds of a struggle and faint cry for help but didn't feel a need to call police or check on the home? Evil continues to exist in this world because of those who do nothing to stop it!
Paula February 02, 2014 at 10:55 AM
So sad
BJ February 02, 2014 at 11:07 AM
From the headline, it initially seemed the corpse was guilty of murder. But, in any event, I guess necrophilia isn't dead yet.
TSManning February 05, 2014 at 12:45 PM
For everyone that has so very graciously handled the usual malignant comments " right on all very well said." Still the Americans who speak so Ill of themselves , your cluttered with distractions. You are what you dislike about America. As for the media I scream SLANDER!


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »