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Contractor on trial for rape, murder of Richmond woman found in her bathtub

Posted at 1:22 PM, Nov 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-16 19:13:59-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- The trial for the Henrico man charged with raping and murdering a Richmond woman in her home began Monday with jury selection.

Eight women and six men were chosen for the three-day trial.

Suzanne Fairman, 53, was found dead in the bathtub of her Tanglewood Road home in Richmond on May 9, 2019.

Fairman was found face down inside the tub of the main bathroom with water running and a bloody knife visible on the counter in the same bathroom, according to court documents.

An autopsy later ruled she was strangled, according to prosecutors.

Suzanne Fairman 03.png

Thomas E. Clark, 59, of Horsepen Road in Henrico, was arrested one week later on unrelated charges.

A grand Jury later indicted Clark on abduction, rape, and murder charges.

Fairman had hired Clark to work on the deck of her home, but had problems with the workmanship, according to court testimony.

"She gave them an opportunity to right their wrong,” Scott Fairman said at the time. “She would pay for the work after it was corrected, which is not uncommon."

Officers went to Fairman's home in May 2019 when the VCU administrator failed to show up for a Mother's Day trip out of state.

During opening statements, prosecutors also said Clark's DNA was found on a bloody knife and the victim.

Prosecutors said Clark held Fairman at knifepoint, raped and strangled her.

The prosecution's first witness was Fairman's son Scott who said that his mom was "my best friend. The one person I could go to for everything."

On the stand, he discussed texts between him and his mom in her final days, including the last one she responded to on the evening on May 8.

He also shared that after he found out she was dead, he sent her one more message, simply saying "I love you so much."

Thomas Clark.jpeg
Thomas Clark

Defense attorneys called the facts of the case upsetting but questioned whether prosecutors could prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that Clark killed Fairman.

They said some of Clark's items were in the home because he had been working there. They also questioned the way some case evidence was handled.

If convicted, Clark faces life in prison.

In total, prosecutors called five witnesses to the stand on the first day of trial, including Fairman's son.

Another was Fairman's nephew who lived in Richmond at the time. When the family was unable to get in touch with Suzanne Fairman when she did not arrive on her flight, her nephew was sent to her house to see if he could figure out what had happened.

He told the court his family said that if he saw her car still at the house, to not touch anything and to call police — which is what happened.

The jury also heard from the two Richmond police officers who first responded to the home and described what they encountered in the home. They both said it was dark inside the home, but when they entered they could hear the sound of running water.

When they followed the sound, the officers said that is when they discovered Fairman's body in the bathroom — submerged underwater in the tub.

The final witness of the day was a forensics investigator who described the evidence that she collected from the house — including a knife, bandana, glove, and iPhone cord (that had been tied in a knot and cut).

During prosecutor's questioning of the officers, they asked several times to confirm what precautions were taken in not contaminating the crime scene — such as limiting the number of people allowed in, wearing gloves, and not touching anything unnecessarily.

Prosecutors told CBS 6 they intended to call over a dozen witnesses throughout the trial. Clark's defense attorney would not say how many witnesses he intended to call or if Clark would take the stand in his own defense.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.