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Convict sings at memorial for slain prisons chief

8:48 AM, Mar 26, 2013   |    comments
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COLORADO SPRINGS - The Colorado prisons chief who was gunned down as he answered his front door was remembered at a memorial service.

The service for Tom Clements, 58, took place Monday morning at New Life Church in Colorado Springs.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and Colorado lawmakers took some time off Monday so they could attend Clements' memorial service.

The director of the Colorado Department of Corrections was killed at his home Tuesday night in Monument, north of Colorado Springs.

A private funeral was held for him Sunday. He is survived by a wife and two daughters.

Evan Spencer Ebel, killed in a gunfight with Texas authorities Thursday, is a suspect.

Tom Clements spent the better part of his life in corrections telling anyone who would listen that 97 percent of all inmates would eventually live their lives on the "outside."

"He lived his life believing in redemption and the ability of the human heart to be changed," said his wife Lisa Clements during Monday's memorial service for the slain Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections.

"[Tom] would want justice - certainly - but more over he would want forgiveness," she told the crowd of hundreds gathered inside New Life Church.

It is impossible to ignore that the likely suspect in the death of Clements spent years living inside Colorado's prison system. It was a system Clements spent the last two years of his life trying to transform to better suit his vision of a department that was capable of better preparing inmates for their dates of eventual release.

Lisa Clements did not mention the suspect by name, but did urge the audience to think of his family as well.

"Our family prays for the family of the man who took Tom's life, for God's mercy in their lives and a way to find peace," she said.

Lisa Clements said she first met her husband-to-be while he was sitting in the front row of a college sociology class in Missouri. She was just 19 years old. They both lived their lives, she said, with a desire to change the world. Yet he was hardly the passive idealist, she said.

"He believed that anything worth having or worth doing was worth the effort," she said.

Authorities say the car Ebel had in Texas was similar to one seen not far from Clements' home the night he was killed, and bullets Ebel fired at Texas police were the same caliber and brand as the bullet or bullets that killed Clements.

Ballistics tests are due sometime this week.

It remained unclear whether Clements was targeted when he was shot and why.

Officials say Ebel had been a member of the 211s, a white supremacist prison gang in Colorado. El Paso County sheriff's spokesman Lt. Jeff Kramer says investigators are trying to determine whether the 211 gang was involved in the killing.

Denver police say Ebel is also a suspect in the March 17 slaying of pizza delivery man Nathan Leon.

It was that work ethic that attracted Gov. John Hickenlooper to Clements when he was looking for someone to fill his open corrections cabinet slot in 2010.

"He had what my friend calls 'batteries.' There was nothing too big or too important that he couldn't tackle," said Gov. Hickenlooper during the memorial service. "[Tom] was always, always moving forward."

"He was without question one of the finest people I have have ever worked with in anything I have ever done," he added. "He believed that Colorado could be a model for the entire nation in how to reform our approach to corrections."

Hickenlooper, who hired Clements, has said that he is a longtime friend of the suspect's father, attorney Jack Ebel, who testified two years ago before state lawmakers that solitary confinement was destroying his son's psyche.

Hickenlooper confirmed he mentioned the case to Clements as an example of why the prison system needed reform before the job was offered, but the governor said he did not mention Evan Ebel by name.

There was no indication that Hickenlooper's relationship with the Jack Ebel played a role in the shooting. Hickenlooper said he did not having any role in Evan Ebel's parole in January.

Officials took additional security measures after Clements' death and placed the state prisons on lockdown Friday.


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