The story behind Tommy Hope's murder in Camdenton to be featured on 'Snapped'

Lake Sun staff
USA TODAY NETWORK
Clara Rector

Clara Rector was turning her life around, frequently posting on a Christian blog about the dangers of drugs, until she became obsessed with her pastor. That obsession lead her to confess to a brutal murder.

After being confronted by authorities about stalking the pastor, Rector shocked investigators, admitting to murdering a man she was in a relationship with years earlier in a case that had never been solved at Lake of the Ozarks.

The story behind the murder case that occurred over 17 years ago will be featured in an upcoming episode of the true crime documentary series “Snapped” on the Oxygen Network. The true crime documentary will focus on the 2004 murder of Tommy Hope, whose killer’s identity was unknown for years until a local Christian blogger confessed to the crime after being arrested for stalking her pastor.

The show will debut on Sunday, July 18 at 5 p.m. detailing the 2004 murder of Hope who was stabbed to death at his home in Camdenton. Hope’s murder was unsolved until Rector confessed to the crime when she was arrested in 2013 on stalking and harassment charges.

What happened in the Tommy Hope murder case

Hope was stabbed to death at his home in Camdenton in April of 2004. Friends worried they hadn’t seen or heard from him found his body. He had told several people that he owed money for drugs and was afraid of what would happen if he didn’t pay. Although the Lake Area Major Case squad investigated, there never was enough evidence to tie anyone to the crime until Rector admitted her involvement.

While being questioned about stalking and harassing the pastor from her church, Rector confessed to stabbing Hope to death with a butcher knife in an argument over drugs.  

Hope’s body was discovered at 6:30 a.m. April 29, 2004 lying on the floor of his home on First Street in Camdenton covered in blood. An autopsy performed at Southwest Missouri Forensics in Springfield indicated eight stab wounds to Hope’s torso and left arm and a laceration along his neck. Rector was questioned in April and May 2004 in connection with Hope’s death, but investigators were unable to establish a connection between Rector and the crime.

During questioning in 2004, Rector admitted to using illegal substances with Hope and to being at his home prior to his death. DNA tests backed up Rector’s statement, but the case grew cold and investigators made no arrests.

Previously: Clara Rector sentenced in 10-year-old murder case

Clara Rector's confession comes years after Tommy Hope's murder

In a confession to detectives nine years later on April 22, 2013, Rector admitted to having an affair with Hope. According to the probable cause statement, Rector indicated she went to Hope’s home on the evening of April 24, 2004 to obtain and use drugs. Rector said she became upset with Hope when he did not save any drugs for her and grabbed a butcher knife from the kitchen. Rector stabbed Hope during what she described as a confrontation between the two of them.

“I was high and not thinking,” Rector allegedly told investigators during the confession. Hope then allegedly checked his wounds in the bathroom of his home, and as he approached Rector, she stabbed him again, saying “I HATE YOU... I HATE YOU...” Following the attack, Rector allegedly stole Hope’s wallet with the intent to purchase and use drugs. Years later after hiding the murder of Hope, Rector became the author of a Christian blog and turned to local media to warn people of the dangers of unchecked drug use. Rector used her blog to advocate against drugs and warn people of the dangers.

In a June 2012 interview with Lake Media reporter Amy Wilson, Rector admitted to using synthetic drugs in the past. “I thought because it was legal, it was ok,” she said in the interview. “You can become addicted after trying it just one time. Then you want more and more.” Rector told Wilson that drugs become so addictive, people commit crimes to pay for it.

The stalking, harassment report from Pastor Jerry Sousley led to the arrest 

The stalking and harassment charges that lead to her arrest, indicate Rector had become obsessed with her pastor. In the years since the murder, Rector said she had changed her life and become a Christian. She had gotten married and settled down. At least until she became infatuated with her pastor.

On April 21, 2013, Camden County Sheriff’s Department officers took a report from Jerry Sousley, pastor of the Camdenton Bible Baptist Church, concerning a stalking and harassment case involving Rector that began in July 2012. A probable cause statement indicated that Sousley received multiple notes and phone calls from Rector and that he had rebuffed her advancements. Sousley found notes on his windshield and eventually became worried that Rector might harm him or his family.

Sousley found a notebook on April 19 at his workplace with a handwritten story from  Rector detailing a fantasized sexual relationship between them. Sousley stapled the notebook in an envelope and gave it to the church secretary, who was her mother-in-law. The secretary gave the notebook to Rector’s husband, who disposed of the notebook at the Hillbilly Fairgrounds in Laurie. Rector then allegedly sent a text message to Sousley April 21 asking for the notebook back. Sousley told Rector not to contact him again. Rector then tried to break into the church where she was arrested for harassment and stalking. While in custody on those charges, was when Rector admitted to Hope’s murder.

Rector is currently serving a 15-year sentence in the Missouri Department of Corrections for second degree murder.