Murder suspect tried to buy rifle

Attempt blocked, but FBI alerted

Staff WriterJune 27, 2009 

— On the day an elderly woman was found shot to death in her southern Wake County home, the FBI alerted Wake County probation officials that the man accused of killing her tried to buy a gun at a local pawn shop.

Because Michael Thomas Clark Jr., 37, was on probation for a drug offense, the purchase at Carolina Jewelry and Pawn was denied, according to court records.

Staff members at the South Saunders Street pawn shop couldn't recall Friday what day Clark tried to buy the gun. Spokespersons for the FBI division that handles background checks for firearms could not say Friday whether Clark had tried to buy the gun Monday, or if it had been in the days leading up to the woman's death.

Clark, 37, is the only named suspect in the killing of Paula Evelyn McCance, 83, who was found shot to death in her home Monday afternoon by her sister. He was arrested late Thursday night and appeared briefly in court Friday, where he requested a court-appointed lawyer to represent him. Several members of McCance's family came to court but declined to talk about her death.

Wake Sheriff Donnie Harrison, whose office is investigating the case, said he thinks Clark broke into the home to rob McCance.

Clark stayed off and on in a mobile home behind McCance's home on Rock Service Station Road, Harrison said. Family members described how they discovered her in her bed, with blood on her home's walls and the furniture splayed about as if she'd been robbed.

Her Pontiac was also stolen, and Clark is accused of stealing the car, her purse, a garage door opener and her cell phone, according to arrest warrants. Sheriff's investigators think Clark broke into the home between 9:10 p.m. Sunday and 2:30 a.m. Monday, according to arrest warrants.

Heroin use charges

Clark was on probation for a conviction last June for charges related to heroin use. His Wake probation officer received a call Monday from the FBI division that oversees background checks for gun purchases, indicating that Clark had tried to buy a rifle from the pawn shop. The probation officer received the message on Tuesday and began the process of revoking Clark's probation, said Keith Acree, spokesman for the state Department of Correction.

It was not until Clark was arrested Thursday that the probation department learned he was a murder suspect.

Clark had missed three office visits with his probation officer since he was put on probation last year and had not seen the officer since April 17.

He missed a mid-June appointment, but Acree said that didn't raise flags with the office until they got the call about the attempted gun purchase.

The probation officer tried to contact Clark and then began the process of revoking his probation when contact with Clark wasn't made, Acree said.

"We knew he was trying to buy a gun," Acree said. "The gun was a big concern, not the missed appointments."

Sarah.ovaska@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4622

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