Imagine if you will that you are a young child, asleep in your bed. You then wake up outside with a strange boy. Groggy, scared and confused you follow him to what you think is safety, only to be met with torture and agony at the hands of a sadistic monster. That was the reality for 13-year-old Thad Phillips when he was abducted by Joe Clark on July 29, 1994.
Joe Clark was himself a teen (17) when he stole Thad from his bed in the middle of the night and he wasn’t a stranger. Thad new Joe from the Baraboo, WI neighborhood and in his confused state agreed to follow the older boy. Clark was friendly and talked about a party he was having, making small talk to ease any fear that Thad might be feeling. When the door closed and locked, however, Clark changed. He rushed Thad, took the child’s ankle in both hands and twisted until the bone snapped. He would go on to tell his victim that he enjoyed the sound and feeling that breaking bones made.
Joe Clark had a particularly nasty bent to him, he was a sadist. A sadist is someone who derives joy from the suffering of others. The worse they think the pain their victim is feeling, the more it excites them. Oftentimes it goes hand in hand with psychopathy, a trait Clark also exhibited. As he would break bones in both of Thad’s legs, at one point taking one leg and bending it behind his head until the thigh snapped, he would talk with him. When the bouts of sadistic torment would come to an end, Clark would act as if nothing was wrong. He carried Thad around the house to watch TV and chatted about his life. Clark would even crudely bandage and splint Thad’s injuries, before forcing him to walk on them.
It was during one of these calm times that Clark revealed that he had done this before. He named another boy he had killed a year prior 1994, Chris Stiner. Stiner had been abducted from his room on July 4th and was found dead in a small pond six days later. He was only 14 years old. The original cause of death was an accidental drowning, something that didn’t sit right with police who had suspected foul play from the start. It was only with Clark’s attack on Thad that the truth was revealed.
Clark underestimated Thad’s willpower. The 13-year-old endured the abuse and injuries inflicted upon him until Clark grew cocky. He left Thad alone while he went out to spend time with friends and that gave Thad the chance to escape. He had made it down the stairs and into a side room before Clark returned and found him. In a rage, the child was beaten senseless and locked in a closet when Clark decided to leave again. At this point, it had been nearly 48 hours since he’d been taken and Thad knew his time was running out.
With true grit, Thad managed to break out of the closet and crawl to a phone where he alerted police. Clark was arrested and his victim started the long progress toward recovery. It was during an interview with Thad Phillips that police made the connection to Chris Stiner. They made the decision to have Stiner’s body exhumed where examiners were able to determine that Chris Stiner’s legs suffered many of the same injuries that were inflicted on Thad Philips. Injuries that would have made it impossible for Stiner to swim when Clark threw him into the water.
When police searched Joe Clark’s room they found a list of potential victims. Some were under the heading of Can Wait, others he was ready to move on and placed them in the Get To Now category. Disturbingly he had also singled out other people for what he called, The Leg Thing. Joe Clark now sits in a Wisconsin prison cell, serving a 100-year sentence for his crimes against Thad Philips and a further life sentence for the death of Chris Stiner.
(If you enjoyed reading about Joe Clark, feel free to check out other killers in my Human Monsters category.)
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