A man killed his girlfriend and lived with her decaying corpse for over two weeks before neighbors discovered the horrific scene. John Bruce Clauer of California was convicted of murder Monday for strangling and stomping his live-in girlfriend Heather Sterns, then wrapping her lifeless body in blankets for weeks.
Clauer, 66, had Stearns living with him for some time before the murder in April 2011. The 30-year-old blonde had been struggling with alcoholism, which forced her to turn to Clauer, who provided her with free liquor and a room, according to The Santa Cruz Sentinel. Neighbors reported hearing that the couple got into fights all the time that would result in Clauer beating Stearns.
"[Clauer] was slowly building up this hatred [for Stearns]," Conrado Montes, a jury foreman who helped convict the murderer in just four hours, explained. "He was like a time bomb. It all came to a halt one night."
A particularly vicious fight between the two turned physical, with Clauer strangling her to death. Neighbors overheard the ruckus and thumps but considered it the couple's usual activity and turned the TV up to drown out the noise.
It wasn't until two weeks later when the smell permeated their apartment. After borrowing the keys from the apartment manager, they discovered the blonde's body wrapped in blankets on a bed and called police.
During the three-week trial in Santa Cruz County Superior Court, Stearns' aunt, sister and friends testified against Clauer. The 66-year-old had to be warned about his outbursts during proceedings, but ultimately accepted the guilty verdict.
"We were extremely pleased that [the jury] were not out very long, and we were extremely pleased with the verdict," prosecutor Jeff Rosell told the Sentinel. Although Clauer's defense attorney Zach Schwarzbach said that another man could have killed Stearns, the jury was unconvinced and they convicted the elderly man of premeditated murder.
Presiding Judge John Salazar has not yet set a date for the sentencing.