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Gun link, but many questions in corrections death
Tuesday - 3/26/2013, 4:00am EDT
P. SOLOMON BANDA
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) -- Colorado corrections chief Tom Clements and his wife were watching television when the doorbell rang last Tuesday night. Clements opened the door and was shot to death.
"My life was changed forever," Lisa Clements told hundreds of people, including corrections guards and officials from around the country, who gathered at a memorial service for her husband Monday.
Nearly a week after Clements' death, investigators in Colorado say the gun suspect Evan Ebel used in a shootout with authorities in Texas is the same one used to kill Clements. However, they don't know yet whether Ebel is the person who shot Clements, whether he acted alone and what motivated the slaying of a corrections' chief admired by prisoner advocates and prison guards alike. Authorities warned that could take some time.
Until investigators determine whether Ebel, paroled from Colorado's prison system, in January, acted alone, "it's hard to know what his role was," Lt. Jeff Kramer of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office told The Associated Press.
"He remains a suspect in our investigation, obviously, especially after receiving this confirmed link from Texas," he said.
No other suspects have been named.
Denver police suspect Ebel was involved in the killing of pizza deliveryman Nathan Leon. His body was found two days before Clements was killed.
Investigators also do not know whether the pizza box and Domino's Pizza shirt or jacket found in the car Ebel was driving when he was captured in Texas -- similar to one spotted near Clements home -- were used by the killer to persuade Clements to open the door of his home, Kramer said.
A federal law enforcement official says Ebel was a member of the 211 Crew, a white supremacist prison gang in Colorado.
Kramer said investigators are looking at who Ebel's associates were in prison and outside of prison.
At the memorial service at New Life Church, both Lisa Clements and Gov. John Hickenlooper spoke about Clements' strong belief in redemption. His family said he decided as a teenager to work in corrections after visiting his uncle in prison, and he worked to reduce the use of solitary confinement in Colorado prisons.
Standing with her two daughters, Lisa Clements, a psychologist who oversees Colorado's state mental health institutes, said her husband of 28 years would want justice as well as forgiveness.
"We want everyone who hears Tom's story to know that he lived his life believing in redemption, in the ability of the human heart to be changed. He would want justice certainly but moreover he'd want forgiveness. Our family prays for the family of the man who took Tom's life and we will pray for forgiveness in our own hearts and our own peace," she said.
Hickenlooper, who hired Clements about two years ago, told mourners that he was both pragmatic and principled.
"He had common sense and he had courage," Hickenlooper said.
Hickenlooper is a longtime friend of the suspect's father, attorney Jack Ebel, who testified two years ago before state lawmakers that solitary confinement was destroying his son's psyche.
Hickenlooper confirmed he mentioned the case to Clements as an example of why the prison system needed reform before the job was offered, but the governor said he did not mention Evan Ebel by name.
There was no indication that Hickenlooper's relationship with Jack Ebel played a role in the shooting. Hickenlooper said he did not having any role in Evan Ebel's parole in January.
Jack Ebel issued a statement offering condolences to all those who have suffered from his son's actions.
Clements, born in St. Louis, worked for 31 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections, both in prison and as a parole officer, before being hired in Colorado. He began a review of the state's solitary confinement system and eventually reduced the number of prisoners being held in solitary confinement. He closed a new prison built specifically to hold such prisoners -- Colorado State Penitentiary II.
Associated Press writer Dan Elliott contributed to this report
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