The California Supreme Court refused Wednesday to review the evidence against a former Torrance resident convicted of murdering his wife, who vanished more than 33 years ago.
Michael Lubahn Clark was convicted in October 2012 of second-degree murder in the death of his high school sweetheart, Carol Jeanne Lubahn, who was last seen alive on March 31, 1981.
In a Sept. 3 ruling, a three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s contention that there was insufficient evidence to support Clark’s murder conviction. The appellate court justices also rejected the defense’s claim that jurors should have been instructed on voluntary manslaughter.
The panel found that the circumstantial evidence was “sufficient to show malice and second-degree murder.”
“The evidence demonstrated Carol was a devoted, capable and loving mother who would never have abandoned her children,” the justices wrote of the victim, an El Camino College student who had a 10-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter. “The last person to have any known contact with Carol was appellant. His story about how she disappeared that night was ever changing and thus lacked credibility.”
Clark reported his wife missing in April 1981, about a week after she disappeared. Her car was found in the parking lot of a Redondo Beach restaurant.
Clark told investigators that he and his wife fought because he refused to sign paperwork necessary to sell their house, but he denied killing her.
Clark was arrested in April 2011 at his Huntington Beach townhome after Torrance police reopened the case.
He was sentenced in January of 2013 to 15 years to life in prison, hours after agreeing to lead a sheriff’s dive team to a site off the coast of San Pedro where he said he had dumped his 26-year-old wife’s body. That search proved fruitless.
Clark wound up passing a detailed polygraph test after telling authorities a specific point where he said his wife’s remains were buried, but authorities were unable to find her body in that area, where construction had been done in the interim, according to Deputy District Attorney John Lewin.
At Clark’s sentencing hearing, Lewin told the judge that Clark said his wife had told him that she wanted to go with someone else to a wedding and that she tried to reassure him that he would find someone else. Clark said that he pushed his wife away from her and that she died instantly after hitting her head on an end table in the couple’s living room, eventually acknowledging that he had punched her in the head, Lewin said at Clark’s January 2013 sentencing hearing.