Trial for man accused in rape, murder of VCU administrator begins

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The jury trial for Thomas Clark, the man accused of sexually assaulting and murdering a Richmond woman in her home, began Monday. 

On May 9, 2019, Richmond Police were called to 53-year-old Suzanne Fairman’s Tanglewood Road home for a welfare check. 

Once officers arrived, they found Fairman dead – face up in her bathtub, according to testimony on Monday. During opening arguments, prosecutors described what happened as “every woman’s worst nightmare.” Jury selection ultimately took more than three hours.

The welfare check was prompted because Fairman was supposed to have been traveling to Florida but never arrived, according to her family. She was found submerged in running water. A bloody knife, glove, bandana, and cell phone cord were visible on the counter in the same bathroom. According to statements in court, Clark told investigators that he had forgotten his bandana at Fairman’s home.

Fairman was an operational administrator at Virginia Commonwealth University. She had hired a company that Clark worked for to stain her deck, according to her family. 8News confirmed the Henrico county man worked for C&C and Son Landscaping and Pressure Wash in Henrico County. In court on Monday, Fairman’s son, Scott Faiman, said that his mother wasn’t happy with the quality of the work done. He said after some back-and-forth with the contractor, they ultimately agreed to fix the job. Scott Fairman said his mother was happy with how her new deck looked and was preparing to fly to Florida to visit her mother for Mother’s day.

Shortly after that, Fairman was found dead. Although she was found submerged in water, a medical examiner ruled that the mother died of strangulation.

During his testimony, Scott Fairman’s last texts with his mother were shared with the jury. After he found out she was dead, he sent her one more message, that said “I love you so much.”

Thomas Clark was picked up a week after Fairman’s murder, police said. He was initially jailed on charges not directly related to the homicide investigation. Prosecutors intend to tie Clark’s DNA to the scene. They told a jury comprised of about half women and half men that Clark’s DNA was found on several items in the bathroom, including on the bloody knife.

It’s not yet clear how his defense attorney, Ali J. Amirshahi, plans to try and prove Clark’s innocence.

“Clark deserves a fair trial here,” he told the jury, adding “there’s no doubt that she was murdered, a horrible crime occurred… The question is who did it? Are you convinced beyond reasonable doubt that he did it?”

Amirshahi will begin calling witnesses on Tuesday or Wednesday. So far, the jury has heard from Fairman’s son, nephew, and three responding RPD officials who all recounted what they experienced the day that Fairman was found. The jury was told that they can also expect to hear from the medical examiner and experts who will connect Clark’s DNA to the crime scene.

According to online records, Clark has a lengthy criminal history, including a rape conviction in Alexandria in 1988. 

The trial is expected to last until Wednesday at the John Marshall Courthouse. It wrapped up at 5:15 p.m. on Monday and will pick back up at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Clark is facing felony charges of first-degree murder, rape and abduction with intent to defile. 

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