Federal prosecutors prepare case against 'dangerous, sociopathic' Clay Waller

Monday, July 31, 2017

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. -- Convicted in state court of murder, James Clay Waller II now will be tried in federal court "to protect citizens from a dangerous, sociopathic and narcissistic murderer," federal prosecutors said in a court filing last week.

A prison manuscript in which Waller stated "killing my wife was a no-brainer" did not prompt the federal case but rather dissatisfaction with the outcome of the state case, prosecutors said.

The manuscript was titled, "If You Take My Kids, I Will Kill You."

In 2013, two years after murdering his estranged wife, Jacque Waller, at his residence in Jackson, Waller pleaded guilty to second-degree murder as part of a plea agreement in exchange for disclosing where the body was buried.

He was sentenced to 20 years in jail.

In May 2016, federal prosecutors charged Waller, a former Cape Girardeau County sheriff's deputy, with one count of committing interstate domestic violence in the murder of his wife.

Conviction on the federal charge could result in a life sentence, prosecutors said.

Cheryl Brenneke, Jacque Waller's sister, welcomed the federal prosecution.

"We are so happy at the thought of never having to worry about him breathing fresh air again," Brenneke said in 2016.

John Lynch, Waller's St. Louis-area lawyer, filed a motion in June seeking to have the federal indictment dismissed on grounds of double jeopardy, violation of due process and failure to state an offense against the United States.

Lynch said the federal government is prosecuting Waller unconstitutionally for the same crime for which he previously was convicted.

Lynch also filed a motion to suppress statements made by Waller to the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies on the grounds they were obtained through "coercion and misrepresentation."

In the government's 73-page response filed last week in federal court in Cape Girardeau, assistant U.S. attorney Larry Ferrell said the latest prosecution of Waller does not constitute double jeopardy.

Prosecutors previously said the federal charge is different from the state charge.

In the latest court filing, Ferrell wrote the Cape Girardeau County prosecutor and the U.S. Attorney's Office "acted independently" in prosecuting Waller.

Waller was advised repeatedly that pleading guilty to the murder charge in state court would not prevent him from being prosecuted in federal court, according to prosecutors.

Ferrell said Waller's repeated admissions to the crime were made voluntarily, and "there were no false promises made to induce the statements."

In the court document, Ferrell explained the actions of federal prosecutors.

He said the prosecution involves a "substantial federal interest" to protect "domestic partners" from murder and other physical abuse.

According to Ferrell, dissatisfaction by Jacque Waller's family, the court, prosecution and community with the state sentence prompted the U.S. Attorney's Office, in conjunction with the FBI, to consider prosecuting the convicted murderer in federal court.

Cape Girardeau County Sheriff John Jordan and Judge Ben Lewis, who sentenced Waller in the state case, wrote letters to the Justice Department urging federal prosecution, Ferrell said.

According to Ferrell, Jordan said Waller "ransomed" the return of Jacque Waller's body for a lesser prison sentence.

Ferrell said Lewis called Waller "a killer who is completely without a conscience and expressed his opinion that if ever released, it would only be a matter of time before Waller kills again."

Ferrell wrote the murder of Jacque Waller was "the last chapter in (James Clay) Waller's long history of violence, abuse and intimidation toward females, particularly domestic partners."

Waller has a nearly 20-year history of domestic abuse, Ferrell said.

He said federal authorities obtained and reviewed thousands of pages of investigative reports, depositions and other documentary evidence involving potential witnesses.

In addition to existing evidence, Ferrell said federal authorities sought to develop a case against Waller that could be presented without Waller's confession by interviewing former cellmates.

Ferrell said "numerous witnesses were located who would testify that Waller admitted the details of the murder to them."

Ferrell said in the prison manuscript, Waller "boasts repeatedly how his prior law enforcement training enabled him to elude the authorities and how Jacque was responsible for her own death because she sought primary physical custody of his children."

The Wallers were married for 17 years. They were separated and in the process of filing for divorce at the time of the murder. The couple's triplets were 5 years old at the time of the crime, prosecutors said.

"Waller threatened repeatedly that a divorce would be her death sentence," Ferrell said.

According to the court document, Waller said he used his "police cap of consciousness" to deceive authorities.

Ferrell said an inmate in a Louisiana prison who once was Waller's cellmate told FBI agents in January 2016 that "Waller wrote a book" about the crime.

A woman in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, told authorities she had been working with Waller to publish the book. The manuscript was turned over to FBI agents March 8, 2016, Ferrell said.

Prosecutors later concluded the manuscript was written by another inmate as told to him by Waller, according to the court document.

"In the book, Waller shows little genuine remorse and often demonstrates an attitude of arrogance and justification." Ferrell wrote.

According to Ferrell, the manuscript, which never was published, "contains a written confession of how Waller murdered his wife and contains incriminating detail after incriminating detail of the crime."

In a chapter titled, "Show Stopper," it is detailed how Waller planned the murder, dug the grave the day before the crime and how he brutally killed her.

Waller described how he buried the body on an island on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, Ferrell said.

In one chapter, it is claimed as he dumped the body in the grave, Waller said, "'You really shouldn't have tried to take the kids; see you around,'" according to the court document.

A hearing on pretrial motions is scheduled for Aug. 23 in federal court in Cape Girardeau.

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