Ex-police chief convicted of domestic violence

Posted at 9:24 PM, Dec 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-15 21:24:50-05

ABERDEEN, Ohio -- A jury found a former Brown County police chief guilty on one count of domestic violence Tuesday.

Former Aberdeen police chief Clark Gast was accused of attacking his wife, Laura Gast, and Laura’s 10-year-old daughter. A jury found him guilty of attacking his wife but cleared him of the accusation that he attacked Laura's daughter.

Taking the stand Tuesday, Gast denied all the allegations. "I never struck my wife," he told the jury. "I've never struck a female."

But Laura's daughter, who also took the stand, told a different story in the courtroom:

(Laura Gast's daughter): He punched her.
Woody Breyer, prosecutor: He punched your mom?
(LGD): Yes.
WB: And you say, 'he,' you mean Clark?
(LGD): Yes.
WB: Okay, did you see where he punched her?
(LGD): In the head.

Laura's daughter went on to describe an incident when, she said, she saw Gast choking Laura:

(LGD): She ended up behind the door and he was choking her.
WB: He was choking her?
(LGD): Yes.
WB: Could you see him choking her?
(LGD): Yes.
WB: Did you see where her feet were?
(LGD): Yes.
WB: Where?
(LGD): Off the ground.

Her daughter also described an incident when, she said, Gast attacked her as she was telling him to stop choking her dog:

(LGD): He had something -- I don't know if it was pants or a blanket -- and he was wrapping around it and he was choking it.
WB: He was choking who?
(LGD): The dog.
WB: Okay, and what did you do?
(LGD): I kept telling him to stop.
WB: Alright, and what did he do to you?
(LGD): He pulled my hair.
WB: He pulled your hair to pull you away?
(LGD): Yes.

In 2013, the WCPO I-Team uncovered new evidence in Laura’s death. That included pictures taken by Lauren’s daughter that showed bruises on Laura’s forehead, back and neck. Laura's daughter mentioned those photos in court on Tuesday.

Detectives said Clark Gast threatened to kill Laura just a day before she was found hanging in their home.

The coroner ruled her death a suicide but her family disputes those findings. Laura's death was the focus of multiple I-Team investigations in 2013 and 2014.

Attorneys for both sides spent more than an hour Tuesday morning picking eight jurors and one alternate for the case.

Prosecutors said they plan to have Laura Gast's daughter testify and prepared the jury for that possibility.

“Maybe this little girl might be a little more nervous because of her immaturity. No one's asking you to give the state of ohio a pass. You need to determine if you can rely on that beyond a reasonable doubt what she's saying,” Senior Assistant Attorney General Daniel Breyer said.

Clark Gast faced two counts of domestic violence. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail. He will be sentenced Jan. 8.