An undated photo of Renee Clark Credit: Courtesy of Dom Crocitto

Living in Hampden was a point of pride for Renee Clark.

She loved chatting with people at the local store she ran with her husband. She was a devout churchgoer and was involved with the newly formed Interfaith Community Opiate Healing team at St. John Catholic Church in neighboring Bangor. If a client needed her help, she happily worked weekends as a mental health counselor, her ex-husband said. Last month, she ran for an open spot on the Town Council.

“She was the kind of person that spread herself around. She just wanted to be involved in life,” said Karen Gladden, 49, who had been friends with Clark since they were in kindergarten.

Only a few people saw how Clark, 49, was trying to escape her turbulent life at the Kennebec Road apartment where last week her brother-in-law Philip Clark, 55, allegedly shot her to death.

[Hampden man shot woman, reloaded, kept shooting, documents say]

Philip lived in a unit next to the apartment Renee had recently moved out of, which she had shared with her estranged husband, Frank “Chuck” Clark, 56.

Police arrested Philip for Renee’s murder Friday, July 13. The day before, Renee had been reported missing by her mother, and police stopped by his apartment on a welfare check. Philip confessed to two police officers that he emptied his green .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun into Renee’s body, reloaded it, and kept shooting, according to a police affidavit.

The circumstances surrounding Renee’s death are still unclear, and police have not commented on a motive. But in court documents and to some who were close to her, Renee confided the reasons Philip — whose brother she was preparing to divorce after allegations of physical abuse — made her uncomfortable, and at times, fear for her life.

[Hampden homicide victim was moving to divorce her alleged killer’s brother, court documents say]

Renee didn’t talk about those troubles with many people. Around Hampden, she continued to be the cheerful, compassionate person with a reputation for helping others, her friends and a former husband said.

Renee grew up in Hampden, attended Hampden Academy and studied psychology at Husson University, said her ex-husband Dom Crocitto, who is still close with Renee’s three grown children. Crocitto, 60, is not their father, but helped raised them.

After earning her degree, she became a licensed mental health counselor, and she especially enjoyed working with children, Crocitto said. He added that Renee attended to clients even during her off hours.

Until she was injured a few years ago, Renee loved to ride horses, said her friends, including Amy Cote, whose granddaughter was counseled by Renee in school.

The “horse world” made her a lot of friends, Cote said, but Renee was also well-known for standing behind the counter at the now-shuttered Highlands Corner Market in Hampden. The market was run by Frank Clark, whom she left Crocitto for in 2008.

Frank declined to be interviewed. In recent months, their ongoing marital troubles escalated, according to friends and police, and Renee prepared to file for divorce. A month before her death, Renee filed a temporary protection from abuse order against Frank, alleging physical abuse and forcing him to move out of the Kennebec Road apartment.

Britney Pease, 23, rented an apartment from Renee and Frank from June 2017 to June 2018, at the same 557 Kennebec Road residence where couple lived. Pease and her boyfriend frequently heard the couple fighting, and Renee sometimes asked Pease to record the noise in order to create a record for police, Pease said. Hampden police confirmed that they made checks at the house for ongoing domestic issues.

Philip, who also lived in the building, was a quieter presence who rarely left his apartment, Pease said.

Even so, he apparently still made Renee feel uncomfortable. In February, a judge denied Renee’s request to get a protection from abuse order against him because the state statute did not apply to brothers-in-law. In the complaint, Renee wrote that Philip threatened to make her “stop breathing” with a “particular gun” if she did anything to get his brother arrested.

[Hampden man accused of killing sister-in-law was a court no-show day before arrest]

A few weeks before her death, Renee moved out of the Kennebec Road building and rented her own place because the Clark brothers made her feel unsafe, Crocitto said.

She stayed away even after she filed a June 15 protection order against Frank, which banned him from the property.

But Philip was still there.

“The protection from abuse order [against Frank] gives me the right to stay there and him to stay away. However, every time I go there [Philip] still is constantly taking pictures of me and watching my every move,” Renee wrote in a June 29 text to Pease. “So it’s really uncomfortable. With all those guns he has in his apartment I don’t trust staying there yet.”

On July 11, Renee went back to the apartment, according to a police affidavit, which doesn’t say why she returned. There, she reportedly encountered Philip. He confessed to shooting her sometime after that, according to the affidavit.

Pease later learned about it on TV. “When I first saw that on the news, I said, ‘she texted me and said that.’”

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Callie Ferguson

Callie Ferguson is an investigative reporter for the Bangor Daily News. She writes about criminal justice, police and housing.