WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A jury sentenced Rodney Clark to life in prison for the murder of Dana Fader, a Lake Worth woman, in 1987. The jury found Clark guilty of first-degree murder in August.
Clark’s trial is the first local case involving the death penalty since a new law requiring a unanimous jury decision went into effect earlier this year. Florida’s previous law permitting a majority decision by the jury for the death penalty was ruled unconstitutional.
"It’s done and behind us now," said Kenneth Colby Manas, Fader's son. Manas was 5 years old at the time his mother was killed.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office investigated the death of Dana Fader since June of 1987.
In 2006, the sheriff's office received a federal grant and a DNA profile was conducted in the Fader case. No suspects were found at that time.
"Going the 25 years without actually knowing was rough," said Angela Fader Sampler, Fader's daughter. Sampler was 10 years old at the time of Fader's death.
Jurors were required to find the crime was either “heinous, atrocious or cruel” to sentence Clark to death. Clark's sentence for his guilty verdict was either life in prison or the death penalty.
“I believe you should spare his life,” defense attorney Carey Haughwout asked the jury. “Take into account that it was 30 years ago.”
Haughwout argued Clark’s abusive childhood and upbringing in Jackson, Mississippi, should be taken into account when jurors deliberated the death penalty. She said he was raised in poverty and was exposed to drugs as a teenager which contributed to a cocaine addiction.
“Clark was made to be a shield as his mother had extramarital affairs from his stepfather,” said Dr. Jethro Toomer.
Toomer testified as a clinical and forensic psychological expert on behalf of Clark. Toomer served as an expert witness in the Ted Bundy and Aileen Wuornos cases.
“His mother would beat [the children] with rolls of paper she set on fire,” Toomer said in court. Toomer testified he met several times with Clark in the Palm Beach County Jail since 2016.
“For the crimes he committed he deserves the ultimate sentence,” State Attorney Reid Scott said during closing arguments.
Scott showed the jurors several photos investigators took of Fader when she was found in her car in 1987. The photos showed strangulation marks on Fader’s neck, with finger imprints and a rope impression.
Clark was found in Jackson, Mississippi, by investigators. Clark told investigators that he had lived in Palm Beach County in 1987, according to his arrest report.
Clark served eight years in a Mississippi prison for the rape of a woman in 1987. Investigators believe Clark raped that woman months after Fader’s death.
"We just wanted him off the streets so nobody would have to worry about him," Manas said.
Clark denied knowing Fader. PBSO deputies arrested Rodney Clark and charged him with first-degree murder.
Fader was reported missing by her family, and at the time of her death, she was living with her then 3-year-old son and brother at the Willow Lake Apartments on 10th Ave. North in Lake Worth.
A family member discovered her body in her car in the parking lot of the apartment complex.
An autopsy of the death revealed that Fader had been strangled.