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Just as his second trial for the 2007 murder of package store owner Jared Silva was getting under way, Gary L. Clarke, 25, decided Wednesday in New London Superior Court to plead to the lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter with a firearm.
Clarke will be sentenced Aug. 2 to 40 years in prison, suspended after 25 years served and five years probation.
Clarke's first trial, in January 2011, ended in a mistrial when the jury indicated it was unable to reach a verdict.
New London County State's Attorney Michael Regan said Clarke and a co-defendant, Cosmo Frieson, set out to rob a store when they settled upon Jared's Packy at the corner of Ocean Avenue and Squire Street on Oct. 12, 2007.
Regan said Frieson obtained the gun, but it was Clarke who confronted Silva with the weapon.
Silva refused to turn over the money and fought with Clarke. At some point during the fight, Clarke shot Silva in the head.
Regan said Silva's mother and sister were present in court Wednesday and "reluctantly" agreed to the plea. They will address the court at the time of sentencing, Regan said.
Other charges against Clarke, including a first-degree sexual assault charge, with be withdrawn at the time of sentencing. Regan said attempts to reach the sexual assault victim have been unsuccessful, and the victim has never attempted to contact the prosecutors.
Testimony at the first trial revealed that Clarke was standing over Silva's body when police arrived and that his cellphone was found in a pool of blood between Silva's forearm and torso. There was little other physical evidence to link Clarke to the murder, so the case hinged in large part on the credibility of associates of Clarke, who were called as state's witnesses.
Frieson in July 2009 pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree robbery. He faces a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. His sentencing was delayed until Clarke's case was resolved.