South Carolina

Lancaster murder suspect skips trial; prosecutor warns he’s ‘armed and dangerous’

Montrez Clark
Montrez Clark

A murder defendant out on bond failed to show up for trial Monday in Lancaster, and police and prosecutors say Montrez Clark should be considered armed and dangerous as a local, state and federal police manhunt continues.

Clark, 26, is the last of five defendants to face trial in the 2009 beating and shooting death of Lamario Ford. The other four defendants accepted plea deals, including one who was shot to death last month before the trial was set to begin.

One of the four defendants, Yusuf Abdus-Salaam, 32, who was also out on bond, was gunned down in October outside a home near a day care in Lancaster. No one has been arrested in the killing of Abdus-Salaam.

Clark has been out on $30,000 bond since 2012 awaiting trial, online court records show. Prosecutors attempted to have the trial move forward Monday in Clark’s absence but a judge continued the case.

A bench warrant was issued for Clark’s arrest.

Randy Newman, Sixth Circuit Solicitor, said Clark should be considered “armed and dangerous.” The warrant is the second bench warrant for Clark for failure to appear, Newman said.

Newman said anyone found to be helping Clark elude capture will be prosecuted.

“Once he (Clark ) is found, he will be held accountable and tried,” Newman said.

Clark had contact with his lawyer as recently as September and knew that the trial was scheduled to start Monday, Newman said.

Bond forms for all defendants state the defendant must appear in court if released.

Capt. Scott Grant of the Lancaster Police Department agreed that Clark should be considered “armed and dangerous.” Grant said the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Marshal Service, State Law Enforcement Division and other law enforcement are looking for Clark.

Public defender Mark Grier, the lawyer for Clark, said Tuesday that Clark is charged with murder but is presumed innocent and has maintained his innocence. Three other defendants pleaded guilty to lynching and the fourth pleaded guilty to assault and battery, Grier said.

“Ultimately the people responsible for Mr. Ford’s death have pleaded guilty in this case,” Grier said.

Two days before Abdus-Salaam was gunned down, Devone Frazier, 30, was killed on a Lancaster street. An arrest was made in that case, but police have not said the cases are linked. Frazier was awaiting a re-trial for murder after an appeals court overturned his conviction.

Anyone who sees Clark is urged by police to call 911 or the Lancaster Police Department anonymous tip line at 803-289-6040.