The Lancaster man who skipped a Monday trial for murder charges was charged by police for other crimes at least six times while out on bond, court and arrest records show, yet his bond was never revoked.
Montrez Clark was free on $30,000 bond in a case from 2009, court records show. During his four years out on bond, he was convicted of drug possession and faced smaller charges, such as driving infractions.
Yet it appears authories did not tell magistrate judges or prosecutors about those smaller charges.
Magistrate-level misdemeanor cases usually do not include a call from police making the charge to prosecutors, Randy Newman, 6th Circuit solicitor, said.
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When it came time for Clark, 26, to appear in court in Lancaster on Oct. 24 and then for trial Monday, he did not show up.
Clark was the last of five people to face murder charges in the savage beating and shooting death of Lamario Ford in 2009 in Lancaster. The other four defendants – including one who was gunned down just weeks ago – pleaded guilty to lesser charges leading up to the trial date.
Clark has been called “armed and dangerous” by Lancaster police and prosecutors as a manhunt continues.
Clark, at least six times as a suspect and another time as a victim, had contact with police during his bond period. And his criminal record predates the 2009 charge.
In 2007, while a teen, Clark had two convictions: one for drugs and another for assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, State Law Enforcement Division and court records show. For the assault, Clark was sentenced to a year in prison and three years’ probation.
Then in 2009, Clark was charged with the Lemario Ford murder, as were four others. He remained jailed for more than two years. While in the Lancaster County jail he was convicted of a contraband offense and was sentenced to 30 days served concurrently, records show.
Clark then asked for bond to be set because prosecutors had not yet called the case for trial. Bond was first set at $75,000 by Judge Brooks Goldsmith, according to Newman, the prosecutor, and then in February 2012 Judge Ernest Kinard named an even lower amount, $30,000.
Clark had a right to ask that bond be set, but release is not guaranteed if a judge determines a defendant is either a threat to the community or a flight risk.
On Monday, Clark did not show up for his trial in Lancaster.
“He never should have been out on bond in the first place,” Newman said.
A person facing life in prison is a flight risk, Newman said, and his office opposes bond in all murder cases.
Yet Newman conceded that judges can set bonds in cases that take so many years to bring to trial.
Former prosecutor Doug Barfield told the court Monday, when Clark did not show for trial, that there were delays waiting for forensic test results and other delays.
But Clark ran into police many times while on bond, encounters that could have ended with him back in jail awaiting trial.
In June 2012, SLED records show, Clark was charged by Lancaster deputies with simple possession of marijuana and convicted that same month. He paid a fine.
Clark then was charged, according to online magistrate records in Lancaster County, with traffic offenses in both September and October of 2012.
In November 2012, Clark was apparently a gunshot victim in another incident, reports show.
In 2014, Clark was charged again with drug possession, this time by Lancaster city officers, SLED records show.
Still, Clark remained free. He was charged in May 2015 with a driving infraction in Lancaster County. In July 2015, Clark was in the Lancaster County jail, detention officers said, on a Family Court case.
In York County in June of this year, Clark was charged with another driving infraction of driving under suspension by troopers, and he was found guilty days later in a trial in his absence at the magistrate court in York.
After all those encounters with police, Clark remained free on bond.
It is unclear if police told prosecutors about those cases that likely were tickets and not booking arrests into jail, Newman said.
This week, prosecutors tried to call the case to trial in the murder charge, seven years after the killing of Lamario Ford. But Clark did not show up
Public defender Mark Grier, Clark’s lawyer, reiterated late Wednesday that Clark is only charged in the murder case and maintains his innocence while others have pleaded guilty in the crime.
Grier said he was not aware of the magistrate-level charges against Clark and was not appointed in those cases.
Police and prosecutors said that as of late Wednesday Clark had not been found.