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'Shock and horror' over minister who killed two wives

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- Churchgoers in this tiny dairy farm community were 'shocked and horrified' Sunday by police claims that a pastor killed two of his three wives to collect insurance and continue an affair with a teenager.

The Macedonia United Brethren Church in Greencastle, 45 miles southwest of Harrisburg, was divided over the Rev. Donald Lewis Clark, who state police said killed himself with an arsenic overdose when confronted in April with evidence of the crimes.

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Clark, 52, recently was removed as pastor on a no-confidence vote of the congregation because, 'You couldn't depend on his word,' said church treasurer Don Maun.

'But some people thought he could do no wrong,' he added.

'People were shocked and horrified that a man professing to be a minister would have been involved in this situation,' said Ronald Gipe, a parishoner at neighboring Antrim Brethren in Christ Church in the southcentral Pennsylvania town of 3,300.

'We at this church feel compassion for the fellow parishioners and just general shock at what has come to light here in our sedate little community,' he said Sunday.

Church officials said Clark began acting strangely only about a year ago.

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'There once were marks and bruises on his body that he never explained,' said his church superior, the Rev. Paul Baker. 'He was found passed out in his car but refused treatment.'

But authorities said Clark's bizarre escapades began two years ago when he launched an affair with a juvenile, then only 14, while married to his second wife, Phyllis Clark.

State police trooper Donald Paul said Phyllis Clark, 49, discovered the affair and Clark may have killed her in October 1981 because she threatened to divorce him and publicize the relationship.

'The juvenile stated that they were having an affair, and the second wife wised up to it,' Paul said. 'He had stated to her that he intended to get rid of the second wife and intended to do it by poisoning.'

Police said Phyllis Clark died after a fall down cellar steps of the church parsonage, which apparently was caused by her weakened condition from taking arsenic.

Clark was found dead of arsenic poisoning in the parsonage April 13, six days after the death of his third wife, Ronaele Clark, 40.

Paul said she may have been killed because Clark quickly needed money from her insurance policy to buy a $90,000 house near Shippensburg where he planned to live with the teenager.

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He said Clark had a double-indemnity clause on Ronaele Clark's $100,000 insurance policy if she died an accidental death. She was found dead in her bathtub with an electric heater in the water. However, police said the cause of death was a sharp blow to the head.

Authorities said the pastor was briefly married to his first wife about 30 years ago while in the Navy, but she was not involved in the incidents under investigation.

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