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Halifax town still mourns pregnant woman's 1983 slaying

Posted February 5, 2011
Updated February 6, 2011

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— Susan Shearin Clary was 8 months pregnant when she was murdered in her Halifax County home on May 16, 1983. To this day, no one has been arrested or charged in her death, but investigators are breathing new life into the case.

The crime still haunts the small town of Weldon, and Clary's family is desperate for answers.

"The uselessness of it, the waste of two lives, it makes you angry," said Michael Shearin, Clary's brother. "It makes you hurt. It makes you say, 'Why?'"

Clary's husband, Tim Clary, told investigators that he left their home early that morning to see his father. He said his 19-year-old wife was still asleep.

But just a few hours later, Clary never arrived at Weldon Town Hall, where she worked as assistant town clerk.

Co-workers got concerned and called her father, who went to her home to check on her.

"He went up there. Of course, the back door was open, and he went in," said Maurice Shearin, Clary's mother. "He found her lying on the bed, stark naked, with a bra wrapped around her neck."

Maurice Shearin arrived a short time later and heard the grim news.

"When I got there, they were bringing her out of the house, and her hand fell out from under the cover," she said. "And I realized then that she was gone."

Clary died from asphyxiation, and although she was found with a bra around her neck, it wasn't used to kill her, authorities said. There were also two guns found in the bedroom – one was right next to her body. Neither had been fired, and any fingerprints were wiped clean.

"If somebody spontaneously left those in those awkward positions, you would think that they wouldn't have wiped them clean," said Maj. Bruce Temple of the Halifax County Sheriff's Office.

Temple took over as lead investigator on the case when it was reopened in 2008. He said the placement of the guns was just one of several strange circumstances at the crime scene. He said it looked as though whoever killed Clary wanted the scene to look like a typical home break-in.

"(The original investigators) were never able to determine that anything at all was taken," Temple said. "(That's) very unusual. We would say that's consistent with staging a crime scene."

Investigators ruled out robbery and sexual assault as motives for the crime. There were no signs of forced entry, Temple said.

Over the years, as the case has been handed down from investigator to investigator, one theory persists.

"This may have been something that happened spontaneously that resulted in her death," Temple said. "It may not have been an intended homicide."

Temple said many suspects have been eliminated over the years, but that some suspects are still on his radar. He said he hopes someone will come forward with the information he needs to make an arrest.

"We hope that after all these years, that this case will touch the heart of somebody, and they're going to be inclined to tell us something now," he said.

For Clary's family, an arrest would mean justice – 28 years in the making. But solving the murder won't bring Clary back and won't ease the pain her mother has lived with for nearly three decades.

"(I've) got an emptiness that (I) can't ever fill," Maurice Shearin said.

Anyone with information about the murder of Susan Shearin Clary can call NC Wanted's tipline at 1-866-439-2683 or submit a tip online.


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