Once I was a gentle happy person, willing to live and let live, able to dispel my anger with a laugh and walk away from confrontations. Although an atheist, I still turned the other cheek, I believed in the Golden Rule and the examples set by Gandhi, Father Damien, Christ, and other great gentle persons. I was a gentle happy person. I believed there was good in all people if you looked for it. I opposed corporal and capital punishment and was active in improving my community. Since March 27, 1993 I have become a different person. That was when my son Jason Lewis Hager was brutally murdered by Delwin Clark.
All my life I have been one who thought of himself as blessed. Serious troubles always seemed to avoid me. I had been born into a family that loved and cared for me. I had always had good relationships with my family, teachers, classmates, employers and coworkers. An extroverted personality, good health, active and inquiring mind, and an optimistic outlook had always benefited me. That has greatly changed since Delwin Clark brutally murdered my son Jason Lewis Hager.
I was born in Chicago in 1934, in the midst of the depression. Like most Americans at the time, my parents struggled financially and emotionally to raise my brother, sister and myself. As a very young boy, in the winter I pulled my Red Rider wagon along side the railroad tracks as my older brother and I foraged for coal for the family stove. In the early Forties we lived in a federal housing project in Chicago.
I remember that we ate a lot of fish that we caught in Lake Michigan. Sheltered from the world around me, for me life was just a great adventure. There has not been much adventure since Delwin Clark brutally murdered my son Jason Lewis Hager.
In 1943 the family moved to a small town in Northern Wisconsin. We moved into a home my parents paid $10 a month to rent. My parents divorced in 1945. Dad moved back to Chicago and mom raised us. After several more rental homes, about 1949 mom bought her own house for $2,500. It had four big bedrooms and a pump outside the back door. Now that we are adults, my sister, brother and I like to remind each other that all the years we lived in this small Wisconsin town we never lived in a home that had running water. “Four bedrooms and a PATH”, we like to say. While there I lived happy and carefree. There has not been much carefree happiness since Delwin Clark brutally murdered my son Jason Lewis Hager.
I left home in 1953 to make my way in the world. Luck was on my side and very quickly I found a data processing job that gradually evolved into a profession. I had entered what would eventually become the computer industry. I learned my profession well, became a business application analyst and programmer and would remain such my entire life. Regardless of the issues confronting me on job, I have always been delighted with my profession. It has always been emotionally and financially rewarding. Sadly, rewards have been few since Delwin Clark brutally murdered my son Jason Lewis Hager.
In 1955 I met a young lady. Quickly we married and settled down to life together. My first daughter Alleen Rae Hager was born in May the following year. In 1958, my daughter Lynn Anne Hager was born. My first son John Edward Hager arrived in 1960. Marital issues resulted in our divorce and my custody of the children in 1961. Three small children and a full time career kept me very active. There was a great deal of joy in watching my children learn and grow. I was the only male single parent I knew and that was also true with my friends, acquaintances and everyone one else I spoke to. But I was completely unprepared for life as a single parent and I made a great deal of mistakes. For the next dozen years I was a heavy drinker. My position at work now increasingly involved a great deal of client contact, both from a business and a social perspective. Alcohol usage was almost a daily occurrence. Too often I woke up at home not very sure how I got there. Today, I awake too often filled with the intense grief, anger, hate and despair I have felt since Delwin Clark brutally murdered my son Jason Lewis Hager.
In the mid Sixties I met Phyllis. Divorced from her first husband, she had custody of her two small girls, Ila Hope Rubens and Elana Dawn Rubens. In 1968, our daughter Racquel Shanna Hager was born. We purchased our first home and began talking about adoption. Racquel was seven years younger than her siblings and we were concerned she would grow up much like an only child, except she would have eight parents. In a family of eight, one more mouth to feed is hardly a major problem; consequently the financial decision of another child was easy. However, my son, John, and I were positive if there was to be another child, he HAD to be a boy. Not wanting to trust Mother Nature, both Phyllis and I were overwhelmingly in favor of adoption. Thus, in 1970, my son Jason Lewis Hager joined our large boisterous family. There was no way on that joyous day that we could envision that Delwin Clark would brutally murder our beloved son Jason Lewis Hager.
Following our marriage, and encouraged by my best friend Rudy Glover, a black American, Phyllis and I became active in the Civil Rights Movement, contributing time, money and energy. We marched with Doctor Martin Luther King and Jesse Lewis Jackson. We were members of an outreach group, through an inner city church, working with families whose children were associated with or under control of an inner city gang called the Blackstone Rangers. We visited their homes and saw the squalor and hopelessness so prevalent in the inner city. We brought them into our home and encouraged them to continue their schooling, cautioned them against joining “the Gang”, having babies and taking drugs. We tried to provide an oasis for them to use to build the strength to break the chains that bound them to the deep slums of the inner city. Now there is no oasis on earth for my son Jason Lewis Hager, he was brutally murdered by Delwin Clark.
Jason’s biological parents were young high school children from different cultures and ethnicities; one was black and the other white. In 1970 babies of mixed black and white parentage were classified “Hard to Place”. Very few babies of mixed black and white parentage were placed for adoption. I was at work when the agency called and told me we could come down and see a six week old male child they thought would be well suited for us. One of the joys of my life was the subsequent phone call I made to Phyllis to tell her she was a mother. One visit was all it took for us to know that Jason was perfect. A few days later his foster parents placed Jason Lewis Hager in our waiting arms. Even at such a young age his affect on them was clear and their attachment to him was obvious. His foster mother bought a new layette for him to wear when we took him home. She and her husband declared that they would cease being foster parents and would soon adopt a child also. They mourned the loss of Jason from their lives. Little did we realize that only a few years later our entire family would experience intense grief, pain and loss when Delwin Clark cold bloodedly murdered my son Jason Lewis Hager.
In 1970, racial hatred was far more open than it is today. Jason was the second black in our community of 25,000 and it did not take long for a cross to be burnt on our lawn. My daughter’s fifth grade teacher asked my wife if Jason was going to speak “Colored” when he grew up. Luckily, we had wonderful neighbors that banded together to support us. They physically confronted those in the community that were harassing us and that greatly reduced their interest in pursuing us. As soon as the legal time limit expired, our entire family went to the court house in downtown Chicago for the legal proceeding that would legally change his name and our lives. The judge hoisted child after child onto his “Bench” and interviewed them about Jason and how they felt about adding him to our family. At the end I remember his comments that normally he presided over extremely difficult and grave legal matters and that he relished adoptions for their participants were filled with hope, joy and wonderful expectations for the future. My son Jason Lewis Hager has no future. Delwin Clark destroyed the future of my son Jason Lewis Hager when he brutally murdered him.
Marital problem resulted in Phyllis’s and my divorce in 1975. My oldest daughter Alleen moved out and Lynn, John and I set up housekeeping about 10 blocks from Phyllis. For the next three years Racquel and Jason shuffled back and forth between the two homes. After living with Ila and Elana for nearly ten years, I had grown to think of myself as their daddy and the divorce did not alter this. Although not living together, Phyllis and I tried hard to keep it a two parent family. I found that I was able to continue to have as much of a positive influence on the children she had custody of as those I had custody of. Jason would deliberately seek me out for ideas that would help him work out issues he was encountering. He would say, “Dad, I have a question?”. Then he would follow with , “What would you do if ….?”, “How do you …..?”, or “What do you think ……?”. He would listen attentively and then usually say he had to think about it some more. My son Jason Lewis Hager stopped thinking when Delwin Clark stuck a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger, brutally murdering him.
The next few years were hectic. My older children graduated and left home, Lynn in 1977 and John in 1978. Then, in 1977, both my father and step father died within 45 days of each other. My fiancée, Anita, and I bought a home in Skokie, Illinois in 1978 and we were married there a few months later. In 1979 we sold the house and moved to California. Anita’s dad died suddenly that summer, we divorced and separated temporarily and then quickly resumed our romance again. During this time Jason and Racquel were frequent members of our household for vacations and holidays. When not with me, I kept close contact via the telephone on almost a weekly basis. Concerned with their education, I spoke with their teachers during the school year and used their advice to help motivate the two of them. Phyllis and I spoke often so I could stay up on family news as well as on their progress in school. Jason continued to seek my and Anita’s counsel as he matured which helped to reduce the miles between us. Privately, he and I developed the unique bond many fathers and sons seek and never find. During these years, he and I took numerous sightseeing or fishing trips together. Occasionally, Anita and Racquel would join us. Some of the more adventurous places we went are; Flin Flan, Manitoba, Canada; Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Lake Mead, Nevada; Yellowstone Park; Yosemite National Park; and the Grand Canyon, North Rim. My adventures with my son Jason Lewis Hager ended when he was brutally murdered by Delwin Clark.
As they grew up together, Jason and Racquel (Kelly) developed a unique bond between them. With many older siblings and multiple households to live in, they became constant companions and protectors of each other. When Jason was very small, Racquel defended him against all comers. Then he sprouted muscles and he defended her. Typical of siblings, when alone together they bickered and picked on each other incessantly. For 22 years, when we spoke of one we almost always included the other. “Kelly and Jason” or “Jason and Kelly”, they were our twins in a sense. Kelly is now Racquel and she will never again enjoy the protection of her kid brother. Her beloved brother Jason Lewis Hager was brutally murdered by Delwin Clark.
Jason’s older siblings were equally affected by having a new bouncing baby boy enter their lives; they had new responsibilities and experiences unique to White People in the Northern United States. They had crosses burnt on their lawn because of Jason’s color; they were ostracized by many in the community, called “Nigger Lovers”, and lost a number of friends. Somewhat confused at first by it all, they quickly adjusted to the harassment and name calling and the family closed ranks. The ensuing 22 years found each of them endowed with Jason’s warmth, wit, common sense, impishness, love, and special outlook on life. Then suddenly each of Jason’s six siblings experienced a profound loss that is uniquely their own. Today, after years of intense grief and pain, each of them continue to suffer the loss of the singularly special and wonderful person that was their beloved brother, my son, Jason Lewis Hager, who was cruelly and brutally murdered by Delwin Clark.
Throughout his school years Jason had never quite fitted in. For most in the Black community, he just wasn’t Black enough. Worse yet he had a White family. Conversely, most Whites considered Jason a Black person. Consequently he learned early on to judge others not by the color of their skin but by their actions, deeds and opinions. Jason’s friends were from all segments of our society. Surprisingly conservative in his views, he was never-the-less open to many opposing opinions. In both High School and College he dated girls of many races. After high school, Jason left home and went to Southern Illinois College in Springfield, Illinois. There he met and fell in love with Kelly Gamble. She was White and he of course was considered by her family as Black. When he talked about her to me, it was with almost reverence in his voice. He was awed by her affection for him and totally taken with her. Faced with an ultimatum from her family to cease seeing Jason or be thrown out of the house, she and Jason moved in together. Returning to Chicago, they lived together for the next 18 months. He told me he was responsible for her and would never leave her. But the timing was all wrong. She wanted marriage and children now and he wanted to finish college and to then go on to Law School someday. So they separated and she later married another man and he was heart broken. He told me that he knew that one day he would again experience the joy of love; he wanted to marry around the age of 30 and was saving the decision of having children for later in life. But my son Jason Lewis Hager will do none of these because he was cruelly and brutally murdered by Delwin Clark.
Continuing his college education at the University of Illinois, Chicago Campus, Jason’s focus on education and self improvement heightened after his freshman year. He began to target Political Science and Law as possible career fields for himself. He frequently expressed a keen interest in Law Enforcement. Since his high school days he had always worked for Jewel Foods. Starting as a cart pusher and clean up boy he had been given increasing greater responsibilities. Early in 1995 Jewel Foods offered him the opportunity to enter their management training program once he graduated that coming June. He was very excited about this wonderful opportunity. This program would prepare him to one day manage a large Jewel superstore. His dreams of success and financial security would surely come true he felt. However, my son Jason Lewis Hager will never realize his dreams and aspirations because he was cruelly and brutally murdered by Delwin Clark.
While in college Jason began to feel a need for a religious identity. I was raised Protestant but have been an Atheist most of my adult life. My children I considered as Christian as this was their heritage from both their biological mother and my parents. Except for Christmas presents, I did not give them an exposure to religion. My mother provided them with a regular exposure to Sunday Church Services whenever they visited her. Although Phyllis was Jewish she tried hard to ensure that the family celebrated both Jewish and Christian ethics, teachings and holidays. Today some of my children are active in church and some are not. None of them are professed Atheists as I am. So much then for some of theories about the effect that Atheists have on their children. Jason began attending church services with friends and acquaintances that belonged to a variety of religions. He sought my opinion about God and religion, listened attentively and then said he was still thinking about it. Other family members and several friends were also asked about their religious beliefs. On January 12, 1992 he was baptized and became a member of the Saint Christopher’s Episcopal Church located at 545 South East Avenue in Oak Park, Illinois. According to other members of his church, Jason attended regularly, was active, enthusiastic and well respected. Jason told me that he believed in his God and that he enjoyed his faith. He said that he felt that faith was a very private matter and each individual had to decide such things for themselves. My son Jason Lewis Hager will never again celebrate his faith or enjoy his relationship with his God. He was cruelly, brutally and sadistically murdered by Delwin Clark.
On March 27th, 1993 Jason returned to his third floor apartment following an afternoon in class. His next door neighbor’s door was open, she had company and they were playing cards. With her were her twin sister and her infant niece who lived in an apartment on the first floor of the same building. Also there was a young male neighbor that lived on the second floor. They invited Jason to join them. Jason got a six pack of beer and joined them in the card game. According to Jason’s lifelong friend and roommate, Matt McDermott, this was a somewhat typical evening’s entertainment for people in the building. Meanwhile, following three days of romance in a downtown motel, Delwin Clark with his new girl friend drove to the apartment building. Delwin Clark had recently broken up with the sister that lived on the first floor. Delwin Clark was returning to pick up some possessions that were still in the first floor apartment. Delwin Clark left his new girlfriend in the car and when there was no response to his knocking on the door on the first floor, he proceeded to the third floor. Screaming “Mother Fucker” several times Delwin Clark burst down the door of the third floor apartment and stuck a gun in Jason’s mouth and pulled the trigger. Delwin Clark had cruelly, brutally and sadistically murdered my beloved son Jason Lewis Hager. The male second floor neighbor fled to his apartment of the second floor and barricaded himself in, fearing for his own life. Jason’s neighbor and her sister remained in the apartment with Delwin Clark. After a short time, Delwin Clark wrapped Jason’s lifeless body in blankets and covers, dragged Jason’s body head first down three flights of stairs and stuffed Jason’s body in the trunk of a car. Delwin Clark then drove to a neighborhood miles west of the shooting. There Delwin Clark dragged the dead and lifeless body of Jason Lewis Hager into the back yard of a single family home. Jason’s body was discovered by the homeowner the next morning. Never again would my wonderful son, Jason Lewis Hager work, play, love, drink beer, chew tobacco, fish, hunt, swim, hear his heart beat, and breath. He had been cruelly, brutally and sadistically murdered by Delwin Clark.
Once I was a gentle happy person, willing to live and let live, able to dispel my anger with a laugh and walk away from confrontations. Ever since Jason’s murder I have become a different person. I am no longer a gentle happy person. My beautiful beloved son’s life was cruelly, brutally, and sadistically snuffed out by Delwin Clark.
In the months following Jason’s murder, and prior to the trial of Delwin Clark, my life changed dramatically. I sought and obtained regular psychiatrist counseling and went on Prozac to help control my depression and anger. In August of 1993 I accepted my employer’s offer of retirement. In December of 1993 Anita and I sold our home in Mission Viejo, California and separated. In January of 1994, I moved to my present home in Southern Oregon. Grief, anger and despair continued to overwhelm me. My beloved son Jason Lewis Hager had been cruelly, brutally and sadistically murdered by Delwin Clark.
The trial, conviction and sentencing of Delwin Clark for the murder of my son, Jason Lewis Hager helped to moderate my emotions. But I was now a changed man. Where previously I opposed capital punishment, I would now be very willing to have the State of Illinois turn him over to Phyllis, my children and me for punishment. The trial was exceedingly painful for our family and I for one had fantasized many slow and painful punishments for Delwin Clark. Consequently, I was very unhappy with the moderate sentence imposed on Delwin Clark by the trial judge. Disappointed that he was not permanently removed from society, I eventually accepted that the sentence imposed on Delwin Clark by the trial judge would at least remove him from society for a very long time. Following the trial and the imposition of a 43 ½ year sentence, I was quite satisfied with the Illinois Criminal Justice System and I was relieved that Delwin Clark had been quickly and somewhat effectively punished for the cruel, brutal and sadistic murder of my son, Jason Lewis Hager.
Soon after the trial and sentencing, I returned to my home in Oregon. Life was still difficult but I was no longer under psychiatric care and I had ceased taking Prozac. In the years following sentencing, I tried to learn to live with the demons that plagued me. I grew even closer to my family as we shared our grief. There have been weekly phone calls and frequent visits with or from family that all helped alleviate the pain we shared. In addition to Phyllis and the children, my ex-wife Anita, my mother, brother and sister have been especially instrumental in helping me be more accepting of the situation. In spite of this, every day I awake to the knowledge that my son Jason Lewis Hager will never again share the joy of family. Delwin Clark removed all real joy when he cruelly, brutally and sadistically murdered him.
In 1998, I learned after-the-fact that Delwin Clark appealed his sentence and that a three judge panel has reduced his sentence by more than half. Based upon this new sentence Delwin Clark will leave prison on November 27th, 2005 after serving only 12 ½ years for cruelly, brutally and sadistically murdering my son, Jason Lewis Hager. My son, Jason Lewis Hager will be dead for all eternity, but on November 27th, 2005 Delwin Clark will walk away from prison, a free man, with ample time remaining in his life to marry, have children and grow old; or to cruelly, brutally and sadistically murder anyone else he chooses.
After years of grief over the murder of my son, Jason Lewis Hager, our family is now overwhelmed with waves of frustration, anger and despair over the way the Illinois Criminal Justice System has so cavalierly ignored the rights of our family. Regardless of the fact that our family is registered with Victims Witness, not one person from the Illinois Criminal Justice System took the time to notify our grieving family of the appeal. In the spring of 1998 a friend browsing the Internet discovered new sentencing information about Delwin Clark and brought it to our attention. When Jason’s distraught mother, Phyllis requested additional information from Warden Thomas Ross of Dixon prison and from Bonnie Carter Supervisor of the Victims Witness unit of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), she not given answers, but instead Warden Ross notified her that he had forwarded her request to Arthur Clark, who we believe works for Bonnie Carter, Bonnie Carter of course referred Phyllis back to Warden Ross. I think this is called “the old bureaucratic run-around”. Phyllis has yet to hear from Arthur Clark. His title, curiously, is “Victim Notification Coordinator”. Following this, Phyllis wrote to Governor Edgar, and requested his assistance in penetrating the stone wall that is the Illinois Criminal Justice System. Her letter never reached him. Intercepted by one of his staff it too was given “the old bureaucratic run-around” and was routed incorrectly to someone in the IDOC.
The three appellate judges; Dominic Rizzi, John Tully, and David Cerda that cut his sentence by more than half clearly ignored more than the sadistic brutality of Delwin Clark when he murdered my son, Jason Lewis Hager. I am not an attorney and so make no claim to understanding the intricacies of Appellate Law. However, I like to think that common sense and common decency dictates that heinous crimes like my son’s murder are not taken lightly and are punished accordingly. Their decision to reduce Delwin Clark’s already moderate sentence by more than half is hardly adequate punishment for his crime. Moreover, at the time of their decision, these judges had to be fully aware of the public outcry throughout our nation against overly lenient decisions made by our courts. Also, these judges had to be fully aware that the Illinois Legislature was responding to this outcry with the Truth In Sentencing Law which was later signed into law. In blatant disregard of this outcry, and of the obviously forthcoming law, these judges reduced Delwin Clark’s sentence by more than half. Based on this decision, Delwin Clark will not serve 85% of his 43 ½ year sentence. Instead he will serve 28% of that sentence. Were these judges flaunting their disregard for the public and the legislature? Were they jaded by the violence of our society? Were they under pressure by IDOC officials to free up prison space? Or do they simply not care about victims? Regardless of why, I and my family consider their decision as another example of the American Injustice system. Justice indeed, I doubt their minds were focused for one minute on justice for my son, Jason Lewis Hager. My family and my son, Jason Lewis Hager, all of us, initially victims of Delwin Clark had no representation in their court. Now we are also victims of the Illinois Criminal Justice System in the persons of Judges Dominic Rizzi, John Tully, and David Cerda.
The Assistant States Attorneys Renee Goldfarb, Susan R. Schierl and Julie Line Bailey that represented the State of Illinois for this appeal totally failed to represent my son Jason Lewis Hager and totally failed to represent our family, each of whom are victims of this heinous crime. Not a one of us were contacted by these Assistant State Attorneys or their staffs, yet Karen McKinna of Victims Witness had registered the family, we thought, precisely for this purpose. I do not understand why the States Attorneys Office didn’t give Jason’s mother an opportunity to convey her feelings about the appeal or at the very least notify her of the appeal. Regardless of the reasoning, once again, I and my family are victims. Victims of Assistant States Attorneys Renee Goldfarb, Susan R. Schierl and Julie Line Bailey and their blatant disregard for both the value of Jason Lewis Hager’s life and the natural rights his family have in proclaiming that value.
One question about this appeal and change in sentence runs through my mind repeatedly; I want to know, “did anyone that really cares actually represent Jason?”. The sad truth is that the dead have no one to represent them but their families and yet families like ours are callously ignored throughout the Illinois Criminal Justice System. The only answer I can see is that not one person in the Illinois Justice system considered Jason. Little do they care that his life had been cruelly and viscously snuffed out. They didn’t know him or love him and little do they care that we the living are also victims of this cruel and viscous person, Delwin Clark. Victims and their families have no representation in the Illinois Criminal Justice System that I can see. I and my family ask why?
Clearly, the Illinois Criminal Justice System and the people working in it have failed my family, each of whom are victims of Delwin Clark, who cruelly, brutally, and sadistically murdered our beloved son and brother, Jason Lewis Hager.
Reading this, you may resent or be distracted by its length and amount of detail in it. If you are impatient and feel a need to quickly dispense with this and move on to another problem then I ask you to pause for a moment and consider why I and my family feel as we do. Everyone in the Illinois Criminal Justice System wants nothing to do with us. Everyone is impatient with us and no one is willing to take the time to do the right thing for us. Questions posed to state officials are ignored. Our correspondence to state officials is routed to someone else to answer or it is simply filed and forgotten. Responses to our correspondence, when we do receive them, simply disregard our issues and seem to have been written for the expressed purpose of obfuscating and confusing us rather than enlightening us. There would be no need for this long and detailed document if everyone in the Illinois Criminal Justice System had not impatiently forgotten that Delwin Clark cruelly, brutally, and sadistically murdered our beloved son and brother, Jason Lewis Hager.
As you read this, you may ask why I repeatedly reference my son, Jason Lewis Hager, by his full name; why I repeatedly identify his murderer, Delwin Clark, by name; and why I repeatedly refer to the circumstances of the crime. I do not mean to be cute or disrespectful by doing this. I do it because outside of our family, everyone has forgotten or ignored Jason Lewis Hager, his murderer and the brutality of the crime committed against him. I want everyone that reads this to remember that victims are real people, their lives have meaning, they have names, they have loved ones, they must be remembered and they must be avenged.
Ronald Hager – September 1999