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...

Gregg Miller January 27, 2014 at 07:43 PM
lack of compassion is now the american way.
srbone January 27, 2014 at 07:43 PM
Clauer stated that he didn't know she was dead, as she always laid motionless when they slept together...
gina simmons January 28, 2014 at 07:34 AM
2 weeks go by she wasn't even reported missing??
Al Cloutier January 28, 2014 at 09:18 AM
Quite odd isn't it?
Carolina January 28, 2014 at 11:59 AM
Just another weirdo out of our streets. That's pretty awesome good news.
tojo January 28, 2014 at 01:24 PM
HMmm, "8 Woman jury", not hard to see why things turned out the way they did, even though DNA said otherwise. Only in America.
Warriors Fan January 28, 2014 at 02:05 PM
DNA did not prove otherwise, just because the defense makes a statement in their opening arguments doesn't mean it's true or evidence (you're actually instructed that those statements are NOT evidence). Clauer's DNA was under her finger nails. Loose debris under her nails had a single male DNA peak that corresponds with 1 in 3 Caucasians, 1 in 1 African Americans and 1 in 2 Hispanics. Coincidently she lived on the streets often and had an attempted sexual assault days before (that man was in jail at the time of her death). Do people on the streets wash their hands often? Not necessarily. Does DNA come out from under your nails unless you actually clean your hands? No. Everything was done by the law, and unless you gave the last 4 weeks of your life to listening to testimony, seeing horrible evidence, and following the instructions from the judge, you have absolutely no clue what you are talking about tojo. Uneducated assumptions... Only in America indeed.
Marc Paige January 28, 2014 at 03:20 PM
After the verdict Clauer's comment to his attorney was:" That's the last time I take a girl out for a drink!"
Deborah Randall January 28, 2014 at 06:51 PM
My Heart goes out to Heathers famibly , mom espeicly drinking is a deaise that has taken so many young lifes Theses people who heard her screams for help will have to live with that for the rest of their lives, all kids need to know there are real monsters out there just like this man
Scott Wilson January 28, 2014 at 08:29 PM
David January 28, 2014 at 10:31 PM
"Heather was not John Clauer’s girlfriend! Heather was there to get alcohol and he just happened to be the supplier."..... Ummmm... If she was 30 years old, as this article states at the beginning, why did she need a 'supplier' for alcohol?
Lynn January 29, 2014 at 11:28 AM
As a mother of an adult, I am so annoyed by some of the statements in this mothers letter. 1) as your "best friend" why werent you more in touch with her? 2) why wasnt her alcoholism addressed 3) Why allow your adult child to feel that the only option she had was to live with this perverted old man to feel accepted. 4) In this HARSH world, why dont parents better prepare their children? DON'T send them out into this world "shy, Naive & lost"! My heart pours out to this young lady but its hard to have sympathy for "family and friendd" that only show concern after the fact. I'm sure she showed plenty of signs that she needed HELP. Why wait until its too late to address her issues?
Ronald Ferreira January 29, 2014 at 02:51 PM
put the neighbors in jail for not calling the police
Brenda K Chadwell January 29, 2014 at 03:02 PM
For Lynn- as a mother of an adult you should know that you can not make that adult child do anything that they don't want to do. Please try to put yourself into this Mother's shoes. From her letter it sounds like she WAS in touch with her, her alcoholism WAS addressed, and this man was her SUPPLIER, not her boyfriend. You call this world harsh and say that parents don't prepare their children, we all try our best to prepare them, what they become is really up to them. We have no say after they reach adulthood (usually 18). She says that Heather was thoughtful, sweet, loving, and full of dreams BEFORE she became an alcoholic, that's what all parents hope for. Alcoholism is what changed her to shy, naive and lost, she wasn't "sent out into the world" that way. As the parent of adult children myself, both close in age to Heather, I think that you and I have God to thank for the fact that our children didn't CHOOSE a different lifestyle. And I say choose because, yes, she did choose to take that first drink and every one after that.
Mari W. January 29, 2014 at 03:12 PM
This mother could not have done anything to help her adult daughter unless her daughter came to her and asked for help and agreed to rehab. If the mother would have allowed her to stay in the home, it would have just enabled the alcoholism further. When a child becomes an adult the rights of a parent to have her go to rehab are over. Her friends may have tried to help her and eventually had to shut her out over her continual abuse. When you allow a substance abuser (alcohol as well) into your life or home to help them, it just supports what they are doing. That grown woman had to make her own decision and she is the only one who could have done it. Family often as a last effort will put them out in hopes of them hitting hard enough times that will cause them to come back and agree to help and sometimes it does. Unfortunately this story is the flip side of that coin. A woman her age can always find an old geezer pervert that will supply them in substance just to have them around. I am acquainted with a family who has had a similar experience and a family member was murdered and they will always feel rotten about it and guilty but that woman had been in and out of rehab and jail and many people had tried very hard to help her but if they pressured her too much she was gone for weeks and sometimes months at a time. The one who is to blame for this is the one who murdered her and not the mother and not the friends. Often times a person living like this will not have a friend left in the world.
Mike Mitchell January 30, 2014 at 11:12 AM
Some victim blaming going on...well that's the American Way. Pity she never found AA or therapy, or managed to kick it in some way. I'll be watching intently for the headline, "Stearns' Killer Found Beaten to Death in Prison." That would be good closure.
jackie miller January 30, 2014 at 10:55 PM
We have know our family doctor all our lives....his wife died in her sleep, and he did not contact anyone, answer the phone, nor leave the house. We realized after several days something was wrong...when they went to his house, he said she was asleep, and they found her. He and she were together all of their adult lives, just the two of them and we his patients....so very sad, so I don't think this was so weird, sorry so long. RIP to all that are gone...
Porter Linda January 31, 2014 at 03:02 PM
I am sorry for your loss..give the mom a break sometime it hard to find that lost soul that is being consumed by demon that will not let go...my heart break for this family and the many lost souls fighting this same life style..peace is all
Susan C January 31, 2014 at 08:34 PM
Lynn, Apparently you have no experience with addiction. As others have stated, only the addict can choose to stop. if you've ever had to experience trying to help someone you love who is an addict or alcoholic, you would not be so judgmental and self-righteous.
WOODY11780 January 31, 2014 at 08:58 PM
David Gartner January 31, 2014 at 08:59 PM
Sorry for your loss
Brenda K Chadwell January 31, 2014 at 09:53 PM
For Mike Mitchell- There was absolutely NO victim blaming going on here, the blame rests solely on the head of the murderer, no one else. BUT, I can not stand by and listen to the victim's mother be told that there is no sympathy for her because she "sent her adult daughter out into the world shy, naive and lost, unprepared for the world", When the mother said that she was thoughtful, sweet, loving, and full of dreams until alcohol became a part of her life. To me that's blaming the mother and it is not her fault. As I stated, you can not force an adult child to do anything that they do not want to do. You can make suggestions, do a lot of praying and a lot of crying, but it ultimately comes down to choices made by that adult child.
John February 01, 2014 at 01:18 AM
Very sad ending for this girl. It's really ashame that she took to alcohol the way she did. To bad no one was able to successfully intervene and get this girl the help she needed. That being said ,no normal 30 year old women is going to have an intimate relationship with a man old enough to be her gran pappy. That in itself is a cry for help. I'm not an expert but I would venture to say that this poor girl grew up in a pretty dysfunctional situation that absolutely prevented her from making the step into adulthood.
Mike Liso February 01, 2014 at 06:48 AM
Put this scumbag in general population and inform the immates what he did. They'll handle it the right way,before some liberal attorney tries to claim insanity.
macgeek February 01, 2014 at 08:26 AM
very sad the papers would label her as the bad person. this guy should get the death penalty for this. if he gets only 25 yrs that should be a crime. our "criminal justice" system is a joke. criminals have more rights than the rest of us these days. if you intentionally take someone's life, I think your life should be taken.
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!


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