APPLE VALLEY, Washington County — A Springdale man has been charged with murder after he allegedly shot and killed his landlord during an argument over property maintenance, officials say.
Jason Howard Clinger, 51, was booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility in Washington County about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. Authorities say he was involved in a shooting that left 50-year-old Todd Stratton, of Rockville, dead.
Clinger was charged later Wednesday with murder, a first-degree felony, in 5th District Court in Washington County, according to court documents.
Washington County dispatchers were first notified of the situation just after 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, but the caller who reported the situation declined to give any information beyond a location, according to a news release from Washington County Sheriff’s Lt. David Crouse.
Just after 3 p.m., deputies were able to determine that the situation was a death investigation, according to the release. At that point, deputies were told Stratton had been dead for several hours. It was later determined that the person who initially called authorities was Clinger's wife, Crouse said in a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
Sheriff's deputies then responded to 68 N. Coyote Road, a location near Plataclay Mine in Apple Valley. There they found Stratton’s body, which appeared to have gunshot wounds, according to the release.
A sheriff’s deputy interviewed Clinger, who was being detained at the scene, according to a jail report.
Clinger told the deputy that Stratton came to his home and the two began arguing. Stratton owns the property and would show up every few months to argue with Clinger about maintaining it, Clinger told deputies in the report.
The two had known each other for a very long time and had entered into a civil agreement regarding the property, according to Crouse. They arranged for Clinger to obtain the property through providing services in lieu of payment, Crouse said.
The conflict surfaced several times over a period of years over whether or not the services were being provided as stipulated in their agreement, Crouse added.
Clinger said at one point Tuesday during the argument, Stratton hit him in the chest, according to the jail report. When he looked up, he saw that Stratton was about to hit him in the face and he tried to dodge the blow, but the "punch skimmed his eye" according to the report.
Stratton then turned toward Clinger’s wife and began yelling at her, Clinger told deputies in the jail report. He then walked toward the house.
A short time later, Clinger reported to deputies that he walked toward Stratton and a shotgun went off, according to the report. He said he did not remember retrieving the shotgun and was “surprised when the shotgun went off,” according to the report.
Clinger told deputies he could see blood coming from Stratton’s side after the gun went off. Stratton grabbed the barrel of the shotgun, but Clinger hit Stratton in the face with the gun barrel, the report states.
He also told deputies he remembered seeing blood coming from Stratton’s leg “as being a result of the second shotgun round being fired,” the report states. It’s not clear when during the altercation the second round was fired.
In an interview with deputies, Clinger’s wife reported that Stratton began speaking with her but was not yelling, according to the report.
Clinger went back into the house and got the shotgun and “before I could say no, he shot Todd,” the wife told deputies in the report. She said Stratton reached toward the shotgun, and Clinger fired again.
Clinger told his wife, “I think I killed Todd,” the report states. After Stratton was shot, he said “let me live” or something similar, Clinger told deputies.
The two talked about "what their options were," the wife told deputies in the report. Clinger suggested they flee the area, but the wife said they would get caught, she told deputies.
Clinger said Stratton did not draw a gun during the argument, and both Clinger and his wife told deputies they did not see Stratton armed with any weapons, the report states. Clinger said he knew Stratton had a handgun in his vehicle, according to the report.
Clinger admitted to deputies that he “did not have justification for self-defense,” the report states.
Deputies found two apparent gunshot wounds on Stratton’s right lower back and right leg, according to the report. He also had lacerations on his left eye socket and top of his forehead, the report states.
As of Wednesday, authorities are still waiting for a cause of death determination from the state medical examiner's office, according to Crouse.
Clinger is being held on a $100,000 bail, according to the news release.
It has been at least two or three years since Washington County Sheriff's personnel have investigated a homicide in an unincorporated county area, Crouse said. Homicides are more common in the populated areas of the county, such as St. George, he said.
Clinger's initial court appearance is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in St. George, according to court records.
Contributing: Marc Weaver, KSL TV