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Dec. 1, 2009
Clarence Ray Allen
A coward and a megalomaniac, Ray Allen gave orders that resulted in the deaths of many people. At age 76, he was the oldest person ever executed by the State of California.
by Randy Radic
His name was Clarence Ray Allen. Born in Blair, Oklahoma in 1930, he asserted he was part Choctaw, which meant he laid claim to being a member of the Muskhogean Indian tribe, which included the Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole tribes.
The Allen family was dirt poor, so Ray grew up picking cotton. But Ray was ambitious. Later, he moved to Fresno, California, where he got married and started his own security company. Charismatic and hardworking, Ray’s company flourished. He went from renting a shack for $75 per month to owning a ranch where he raised fancy show horses – Thoroughbreds and Arabians – owned an airplane and had a swimming pool in his backyard.
For some reason, success and wealth weren’t enough for Ray. There was a discordant element inside Ray. Maybe he was simply bored. Some said he simply went insane. Whatever the reason, his psyche became tainted. Ray turned to crime, forming his own gang, which he baptized as the Ray Allen Gang. Because of his outgoing personality, Ray attracted people like a magnet. Some of those he attracted were young ne’er do wells, impressionable, impulsive and reckless men who sought an outlet for their dissatisfied lives.
Ray recruited them and gave them direction. He turned them into criminals. The Ray Allen Gang’s most important rule was no snitching. Ray told the gang that snitches would be killed. To make his point, he pulled out a newspaper article about two people who had been found dead in Nevada, telling his gang that there was only one punishment for snitches.
The gang began a series of carefully planned robberies, hitting both residences and businesses. Ray orchestrated the robberies. He seemed to have a knack for it. Apparently, it was fun. An easy way to make money and get a thrill. And no one got hurt.
Then things changed.
In 1974, Ray determined to rob Fran’s Market in Fresno. Not only did Ray know the people who owned the store, they were friends of his. Which meant the store would be an easy target, because Ray knew exactly how to get in. So Ray came up with a plan. He would need help to pull it off. But that was no problem. He recruited his son, Roger, and Roger’s girlfriend, along with a couple of other willing helpers. The willing helpers were Carl Mayfield and Lee Furrow.
The plan went like this: Roger would invite Bryon Schletewtiz – whose parents owned Fran’s Market – over to Ray’s house for a swim. Naturally, Bryon would put on his swim suit, leaving his clothing in the nearby bathhouse. While Bryon was swimming, one of the gang would go through his pockets and steal the keys to the store. Meanwhile, Mary Sue Kitts, who was Roger’s girlfriend, would get real friendly with Bryon, letting him know how much she liked him.
The plan worked to perfection.
Bryon asked Mary Sue out on a date that night. While Mary Sue kept Bryon busy, Ray and his son Roger and the two other gang members simply unlocked the door, walked into the store and went straight to the store safe. They couldn’t get it open, so they picked it up and walked out with it. Later, when they got the safe open, they discovered $500 cash and $10,000 in money orders. The gang began cashing the stolen money orders throughout Southern California. It was smooth sailing. No one suspected anything and no one had gotten hurt.
Then Mary Sue had an attack of conscience. And everything spiraled out of control.
Mary Sue told Bryon what had happened. How they had stolen the keys, how they had stolen the safe, and how they had been cashing the money orders. She even told Bryon how she had duped him into thinking she liked him. Hurt and angry, Bryon found Roger Allen and asked if what Mary Sue had told him was true. Roger admitted it was. The gang had robbed the store.
After the showdown with Bryon, Roger went to his father and told him what had just taken place: Mary Sue had shot her mouth off and Bryon knew who had robbed the store. According to subsequent court transcripts, Roger, who later testified against his father, said Ray decided that Mary Sue and Bryon needed to “be dealt with.”
In an effort to head off any trouble, Clarence Ray Allen paid a visit to Bryon’s parents, the owners of Fran’s Market. Ray lied to them, telling them that he considered Bryon one of his own sons, because that’s how much he loved the boy. Then he told a whopping lie, informing them that he did not rob the store. After that, he started telling the truth. He hinted that if they caused any legal trouble for anyone, they might reap a whirlwind, because he had heard rumors about burning down their house.
Just to make sure they got the message, Ray paid Lee Furrow $50 to drive by their house at night and shoot at it.
Then Ray decided to take care of any loose ends. The loosest of those ends was Mary Sue Kitts. At the gang’s next meeting, Ray informed the gang that Mary Sue Kitts was a snitch. Which meant that Mary Sue had broken the most important rule. She had to be removed. The gang voted on how to handle the problem. It was unanimous. Mary Sue was sentenced to die.
Ray came up with a plan. They would poison Mary Sue. She would be invited to a party. The party would be held at the apartment of Ray Allen’s girlfriend, Shirley Doeckel. Once the party got going, Lee Furrow was to offer Mary Sue some pills, telling her they were all going to get high together. Only the pills would not be narcotics. They would be cyanide. Once Mary Sue was dead, they would dispose of her body.
Lee Furrow balked. He didn’t relish the idea of killing a 17-year old girl, who stood one inch over 5 feet and weighed 100 pounds. Shirley Doeckel had a problem with the plan, too. She didn’t really care if they killed the girl or not. But she wasn’t real happy with the idea of the murder occurring in her apartment. Lee Furrow and Shirley Doeckel complained to Ray, who convinced Shirley that the deed needed to be done and this was the best way to do it. However, Lee Furrow still didn’t want to kill the girl.
Finally, Ray had had enough of Furrow’s whining. Ray informed Furrow that if he didn’t kill the girl, he would be killed too. Two murders were just as easy as one. From Furrow’s narrow point of view, he had no choice. So he agreed.
On the night of the party, Mary Sue Kitts had no clue about what was about to take place. She didn’t realize what kind of monsters she was dealing with. Shortly after she arrived, Mayfield and Furrow offered her some pills. Mary Sue said no. She liked to drink wine when she got high and they didn’t have any wine at the party.
Stymied, Mayfield and Furrow didn’t know what to do. So they called Ray on the phone. Ray was losing patience. He told them he didn’t care how they killed her. But they needed to get it done. Mayfield and Furrow hung up the phone and went back to the party. After a while, they again offered the pills to Mary Sue. She politely refused their offer.
Baffled as to what to do, Mayfield and Furrow retreated to the telephone and called Ray, who was now furious at his lieutenants lack of improvisation. Ray told Mayfield and Furrow that he was coming over to the apartment. Soon afterward, Ray met Furrow outside the apartment. Chaffing, Ray made it clear that he was tired of all the shilly-shallying. He told Furrow he “didn’t care how it was done, but do it.”
Ray informed Furrow that if he didn’t get the job done, if Furrow tried to leave, Ray would kill him.
Furrow returned to the party. After a while, Furrow found himself alone with Mary Sue. Grabbing the frail girl, Furrow started strangling her. Mary Sue tried to fight the man off, but he was too strong. Right in the middle of the death struggle, the phone rang. Furrow stopped strangling the girl and answered the phone. While Mary Sue gasped for life, Furrow talked to Ray on the phone. Ray asked Furrow if he had killed her. Furrow said no. Ray snarled, “Do it,” and hung up. [Editor’s Note: This and other direct quotes that follow are taken from the transcript of Allen’s unsuccessful 2006 federal habeas corpus appeal.]
Furrow did as he was told. He walked over to Mary Sue and finished what he had started. He strangled her to death.
The gang’s next objective was disposing of the girl’s body. Ray Allen had it all planned. They took the body to the Friant-Kern canal, where Furrow dismembered the body with a knife, butchering it like a side of beef. Then they wrapped it and tied stones to it. As Ray kept a lookout for passing cars, the gang dropped the body of Mary Sue Kitts into the cold, dark waters of the canal.
The body of Mary Sue Kitts was never found.
Ray Allen made sure that everyone involved in the grisly event knew they were equally guilty. They were all accomplices to murder.
The next day, Lee Furrow disappeared. Mayfield questioned Ray Allen about Furrow’s whereabouts. Ray told Mayfield that Furrow was “no longer in existence.” Ray explained that Furrow had gone to Mexico, where Ray had had him killed. According to Ray, Furrow’s murder had only cost Ray $50. Of course, this was a big, fat lie. Furrow was not dead. He would reappear later on and help Ray Allen rob a jewelry store.
Six months later, Mayfield asked Ray if he wasn’t worried about one of the gang members talking too much or making a deal with the authorities. Ray replied that he was not worried about it. If anyone squealed, “things would be taken care of” no matter what. Even if Ray were in prison, he would reach out from prison and kill them.
The Ray Allen Gang laid low for a while. But then Ray started getting antsy. He began planning new robberies. So he brought in two new recruits to help out. Their names were Allen Robinson and Benjamin Meyer. Concerned about the possibility of snitches, Ray made sure the new members knew how he handled such treachery. He told Meyer that once upon a time he "had had a broad helping them who got mouthy so they had to waste her.” She was now “sleeping with the fishes.” These quotes came from the court testimony of Benjamin Meyer.
In the same testimony, Meyer also stated that Ray Allen told them that “if you bring anybody in my house that snitches on me or my family, I’ll waste them. There’s no rock, bush, nothing, he could hide behind.” Impressed by Allen’s vehemence, Meyer asked what Ray would do if he were in jail and couldn’t get out.
Ray Allen said, “You’ve heard of the long arm of the law before? Well don’t underestimate the long arm of this Indian. I will reach out and waste you.”
Ray’s new plan involved the gang hitting K-Mart stores. The first one would be the K-Mart in Tulare, California. Ray told his gang that he had a “fool proof” method for robbing K-Marts.
The Ray Allen Gang hit the Tulare K-Mart store on February 10, 1977. They got away with $16,000. But Ray thought Allen Robinson had screwed up during the robbery. Ray considered killing Robinson. In the end, he simply replaced him with a new gang member, Larry Green.
One month later, in March of 1977, the Ray Allen Gang hit the Visalia K-Mart store. Things didn’t go well. The new guy, Larry Green, really screwed up. While holding his gun to the head of one K-Mart employee, Green thought he saw movement. Turning, he shot an innocent bystander. The situation rapidly fell apart, as police cars arrived. Green, Meyer and Ray Allen were arrested.
Clarence Ray Allen was tried and convicted of robbery, attempted robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.
With their leader in jail, the Ray Allen Gang began dissolving. Everyone started looking out for number one. They all started talking. Which resulted in Ray going to trial for the murder of Mary Sue Kitts. Almost the whole gang testified against their former boss. Lee Furrow made a deal. In return for his testimony he would be allowed to plea to second-degree murder and serve only five years. Other witnesses against Ray Allen included Bryon Schletewitz, Carl Mayfield, Shirley Doeckel, and Ben Meyer.
At his second trial, Clarence Ray Allen was convicted of burglary, conspiracy, and the first-degree murder of Mary Sue Kitts. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Folsom Prison was Clarence Ray Allen’s new place of residence. While there, Ray met Billy Ray Hamilton, whose nickname was “Country.” He also met an inmate named Gary Brady. Both Brady and Hamilton were to be paroled in a short time. As charismatic as ever, Ray soon had both men eating out of his hand. Ray Allen told his new friends that his appeal was coming up soon. To make sure things went his way, Ray wanted certain people killed. He would pay Hamilton $25,000 to take care of business for him.
Ray Allen’s plan went like this: his other son, Kenny, would provide the money, guns and transportation. As soon as Hamilton was paroled, Kenny would hook up with him, giving him the items necessary for the murders. Hamilton would then kill everyone that Ray wanted killed. Hamilton’s first targets were to be the owners of Fran’s Market and their son, Bryon Schletewitz.
After his parole, Hamilton hooked up with Kenny, who met him at the Fresno bus depot. Connie Barbo, who was Hamilton’s girlfriend, also showed up in Fresno. She was going to participate in Hamilton’s murder spree. According to later statements made by Barbo’s friends to police investigators, for a few thousand dollars and some “crank” she was willing to “snuff out a life.”
Kenny provided Hamilton with a sawed-off shotgun, a .32 caliber revolver and some shotgun shells. With guns in hand, Hamilton and his girlfriend drove the car provided by Kenny Allen to Fran’s Market. Their intended victims were Raymond Schletewitz and his son, Bryon Schletewitz. However, when they got to the market, they aborted their mission. There was a 15-year old Mexican boy in the store and Barbo refused to murder someone so young.
The next night, Hamilton and Barbo returned to the market. Entering Fran’s Market, Hamilton waved the shotgun around wildly, while his girlfriend pointed the .32 caliber pistol at the employees. Including Bryon Schletewitz, there were four employees in the store. Hamilton rounded everybody up and told his girlfriend to stand guard over them. Hamilton then walked Bryon into the nearby stockroom and shot him in the head. When Hamilton returned from the stockroom, he asked employee Douglas White where the safe was. White said there was no safe. Whereupon Hamilton shot White in the chest, killing him instantly. The booming noise of the shotgun, along with the berserk violence and splattered blood, set employee Josephine Rocha to sobbing hysterically. Hamilton shot her in the heart, probably because he was annoyed. Then he shot the only remaining employee – Joe Rios – in the face. Rios did not die. Somehow he managed to get his arm up just before Hamilton fired. The shotgun blast tore into his elbow instead of his face.
As far as Hamilton knew, he’d killed everyone. Since there was no one left to shoot, it was time to leave. According to the Malefactor’s Register (www.clarkprosecutor.org), Hamilton turned to Barbo and said, “Let’s go, baby.” As they stepped outside the store, Hamilton and Barbo heard a voice ordering them to stop. The voice belonged to Jack Abbott, who lived nearby. When Abbott heard the repeated boom of a shotgun, he had armed himself and come to see what the hell was going on.
Hamilton did as ordered – he stopped. But only long enough to raise his shotgun and let loose a blast at the voice. Abbott fired back, missing. As Hamilton and Abbott traded shots, Barbo retreated back into the safety of the store, where she hid in the ladies restroom.
Hamilton and Abbott continued their gunfight out front. Scoring a hit, Hamilton wounded Abbott. Hamilton turned and ran toward his getaway car. Even though he had been hit, Abbott was still in the game. Raising his gun, Abbott fired a shot at the figure running to the car. The shot struck home, hitting Hamilton in the foot. Nevertheless, Hamilton reached the car, jumped in and took off.
A few minutes later, the police, sirens wailing, screeched to a halt in front of Fran’s Market. When they entered the store, which now resembled a battlefield, blood and gore were everywhere. They found three dead bodies and the severely wounded Joe Rios. Calling for an ambulance, the officers carefully searched the rest of the building. In the restroom, hiding in a stall, they discovered Barbo, whom they arrested.
Meanwhile, Hamilton located a phone and called Kenny Allen. According to investigators’ reports, Hamilton told Kenny that he had “lost his kitten.” Hamilton stated that he needed a new car, because by now the police had a description of the one he was driving. The two men met and exchanged cars. Needing a place to hideout, Hamilton headed north to Modesto, which was where his old prison buddy Gary Brady now lived. Brady, of course, took him in. While he holed up at Brady’s, Hamilton told Brady that he had “killed three people for Ray.” This was according to testimony given by Brady.
Hamilton needed money. So he asked Brady’s wife to write a letter to Ray for him. Hamilton wanted the $25,000 he was owed for the job. The letter proved to be a serious mistake. For Brady’s wife put the address of their apartment as a return address. While he waited for Ray’s reply, Hamilton decided to rob the liquor store across the street from the apartment complex. This questionable move resulted in Hamilton being arrested by the Modesto Police.
Meanwhile, Kenny Allen had his own problems. The police arrested him for possession of drugs with intent to sell. While Kenny sat in jail on drug charges, the police connected him to the recent bloodbath at Fran’s Market. Investigators interrogated Kenny about the murders. Kenny denied any involvement. However, he must have thought it over, because a week later he offered to testify against Hamilton, Barbo and his father. In return, Kenny wanted to be placed in protective custody and to be given his choice of prisons. He didn’t want the long arm of his father reaching out to get him.
Clarence Ray Allen
In June of 1981, Clarence Ray Allen was charged with three counts of murder under special circumstances and conspiracy to commit murder. Kenny Allen testified against his father at a preliminary hearing. Then, once again having second thoughts about what he was doing, Kenny Allen decided he would change his testimony during the actual trial. This attempt to recant his previous testimony meant the plea bargain was off. The district attorney promptly charged Kenny Allen with the three murders at Fran’s Market.
After thinking about it some more, Kenny Allen changed his mind again. He decided to testify completely and truthfully. Which he did. When the trial of Clarence Ray Allen occurred, Kenny testified against his father.
During the trial, Clarence Ray Allen took the stand, which was unusual in murder trials. In this case, though, Clarence Ray Allen had little choice. His only hope of getting off was if he could persuade the jury of his innocence. While on the stand, Clarence Ray Allen denied any part in the murders at Fran’s Market. He also denied participating in a conspiracy to kill witnesses who had previously testified against him. He did admit, however, to writing the letters entered as evidence against him. And he admitted to transporting and disposing of the body of Mary Sue Kitts. Yet he denied any part in her murder.
All in all, the trial was pretty much a circus parade of dysfunctional personalities, each one lying in their attempts to pass the buck. Clarence Ray Allen was obviously a coward and a megalomaniac. He gave orders that resulted in the deaths of many people. Yet he himself never actually killed anyone. And he was extremely proud of his successes as a robber, providing detailed descriptions of his K-Mart robberies for the jury.
Kenny Allen’s wife – Kathy – testified that Kenny was a drug-crazed psychotic killer, who had planned and implemented the murders at Fran’s Market. Then in the next breath, she admitted to falsifying evidence about the murders.
Three Folsom Prison inmates were called by the defense to testify in Clarence Ray Allen’s behalf. All three testified that Hamilton and Allen had never met in prison. Yet when asked, they admitted that they would lie to protect Clarence Ray Allen.
In the end, after 23 days and the testimony of 58 witnesses, on August 22, 1982, the jury convicted Clarence Ray Allen of three murders, conspiracy to murder eight witnesses and three counts of murder under special circumstances. The conviction of “special circumstances” made Clarence Ray Allen eligible for the death penalty. The term “special circumstances” referred to the fact that Clarence Ray Allen had plotted to murder specific people because they had testified against him or could testify against him. Under the law, this intensified the criminality of Allen’s actions, making them singularly wicked.
Nine days later, the penalty phase concluded. After deliberating less than a day, the jury returned a verdict of death. Clarence Ray Allen was sentenced to die.
On appeal, in 1987, the California Supreme Court affirmed Clarence Ray Allen’s death sentence.
On subsequent appeal, which cited Allen’s old age, his length of time on death row, his physical infirmities and errors at his trial (inadequacy of counsel), the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Allen’s claim that executing an aged or infirm person was cruel and unusual punishment.
On January 17, 2006, Clarence Ray Allen, at age 76, became the oldest person ever executed by the State of California. During his execution by lethal injection, Allen had an eagle feather on his chest and wore a medicine bag around his neck. A beaded headband encircled his head.
For his last meal, Clarence Ray Allen dined on Buffalo steak and fry bread, traditional Native American foods. Along with those two items he had a bucket of KFC Chicken, sugar-free pecan pie, sugar-free walnut ice cream and whole milk.
His last words were: “It’s a good day to die. Thank you very much. I love you all. Goodbye.”
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