Philip Clark is escorted into the court room for his arraignment Monday at the Penobscot Judicial Center. He is accused of murder in the death of his sister-in-law, Renee Henneberry Clark. Credit: Gabor Degre

A man charged with killing his sister-in-law last month pleaded not guilty Monday at the Penobscot Judicial Center to one count of intentional or knowing murder.

After the brief arraignment, the defense team for Philip Clark, 55, said they wanted to speak with a local priest about events leading up to the slaying of Renee Henneberry Clark, 49.

Clark was arrested July 13 in connection with her death. Henneberry Clark lived in an apartment adjacent to her brother-in-law at 557 Kennebec Road in Hampden.

Defense attorney Logan Perkins of Belfast told reporters outside the courthouse Monday that she and co-counsel David Bate of Bangor have been “a little bit hindered in the process of conducting our investigation by our inability to interview and successfully ask questions of this priest who was somehow involved in this situation.”

Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea declined to comment on Perkins’ statement. It is the practice of the Maine Attorney General’s Office not to comment on pending cases.

Perkins was referring to a July 11 “altercation” between Clark and the Rev. Anthony Cipolle that Henneberry Clark witnessed at the apartment where her body was found, according to a police affidavit filed in support of Clark’s arrest.

“We’re going to make sure to do our due diligence in turning over every stone we possibly can and a big piece of that puzzle is what Father Cipolle knows or doesn’t know about that situation,” Perkins said.

Hampden Public Safety Director Joseph Rogers last month confirmed that police were called to 557 Kennebec Road July 11, but he declined to give details about that call. Rogers said Monday in an email that the incident still is “under review.”

Cipolle, 53, of Bangor also has declined to comment on the alleged incident.

“I have been identified as a possible witness to events in the timeframe before the death of Renee Clark,” Cipolle said in an email last month. “Given the circumstances, I am unable to comment or reply to any questions while the criminal process is ongoing.”

Cipolle, originally from Arlington, Massachusetts, was ordained Nov. 18, 2017, and was assigned to St. Paul the Apostle Parish, which includes Catholic churches in Bangor, Brewer, Hampden and Winterport.

Henneberry Clark regularly attended Mass at St. Gabriel Catholic Church in Winterport, according to her obituary.

Cipolle did not immediately return a request for comment Monday. Dave Guthro, the spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, has not responded to requests for comment.

Superior Court Justice William Anderson on Monday ordered that Clark continue to be held without bail at the Penobscot County Jail.

The judge tentatively set Clark’s trial for October 2019.

Henneberry Clark died of multiple gunshot wounds and was identified with a DNA match, according to the police affidavit. Clark allegedly told detectives he emptied his green, .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun into her body, then reloaded and continued shooting her until he knew she was dead.

Clark told police that after shooting his sister-in-law, he collected the empty cartridges from the floor of her apartment and put them in a 5-gallon bucket in his bedroom with other cartridges, so they could be reloaded and used again, the affidavit said.

Henneberry Clark was estranged from her husband, Frank “Chuck” Clark III, but had not yet filed for divorce, according to the court clerk’s office in Bangor. She was in the process of moving out of the Hampden apartment, police said.

She had a protection from abuse order against her husband and a criminal trespass order in place against her brother-in-law.

If convicted of murder, Clark faces 25 years to life in prison.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TRS 800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.

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