Hazleton Man Guilty Of Deadly Bar Shooting
WILKES-BARRE — Accused killer Terrence W. Clarke pleaded guilty Friday to third-degree murder, admitting he was the man who opened fire on a crowd during a fight outside a Hazleton bar five years ago.
Clarke, 31, of Hazleton, had been set to stand trial starting Monday in the February 2014 shooting at Shakers Bar and Grill that left Garey S. Cox, 45, fatally shot in the head and chest. Under the plea deal reached Friday, Clarke will serve 19-43 years in prison.
During Friday’s hearing, Cox’s mother Gloria J. Booth provided a statement describing how she had been on her way to work on a beautiful day when she got the terrible news.
“My sunny day, my happy day, was the worst day of my life,” she said in the statement, which Assistant District Attorney Gregory S. Skibitsky Jr. read in court. “If I got to hug him one last time — I never got to, and it still hurts.”
Clarke did not offer an apology or statement during the hearing.
According to prosecutors, two state troopers driving on state Route 93 shortly after 2 a.m. the day of the shooting heard a loud pop and observed numerous people fighting outside Shakers Bar and Grill. Several additional gunshots followed and the troopers saw Clarke firing a pistol toward a crowd of people in a parking lot, prosecutors said.
Clarke fled the scene, but was captured near West Maple Street. Police recovered a .45-caliber pistol at the scene.
The second victim, who survived a gunshot wound to his buttocks, told investigators that he had gotten into an argument with Clarke inside the bar and that the dispute spilled outside when the bar was closing, according to prosecutors.
Clarke was previously convicted of illegally possessing a firearm during the deadly fight and has already been serving a four- to eight-year prison sentence on that charge.
On Friday, Clarke pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in exchange for prosecutors dropping aggravated assault charges against him. The parties reached an agreed-upon sentence of 15-35 years in prison for the murder, resulting in Clarke serving a total of 19-43 years in the case.
Assistant District Attorney Brian Coleman said the plea would give Cox’s family closure and allow them to move forward.
“Obviously, no one should have to bury their child,” Coleman said.
Citing Clarke’s “senseless actions,” Luzerne County Judge Fred A. Pierantoni III accepted the plea agreement and imposed the agreed-upon sentence, directing him to have no contact with the victim’s family.
Clarke was remanded to continue serving his sentence.