A convicted bank robber pleaded guilty to fatally stabbing his roommate in Tustin just before Thanksgiving in 1990 and was sentenced to 11 years in prison, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Charles Lee Clark, 76, of Beavercreek, Oregon, pleaded guilty Friday to voluntary manslaughter, Senior Deputy District Attorney Scott Simmons said. Clark was charged in January 2013 with murder and a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a deadly weapon in the November 1990 killing of 38-year-old Kathleen Witkowski.

Clark’s age and health — he depends on a wheelchair — and issues with potential witnesses prompted prosecutors to offer the plea deal, Simmons said.

The case was so old it was also possible that the memories of witnesses would be faulty, Simmons said.

The motive for the killing was never entirely clear to investigators, Simmons said. Prosecutors expected a self-defense argument at trial, Simmons said.

“It’s probably one of those things where we’ll never really know what happened,” Simmons said.

Under 1990 law, Clark will only have to do half of the 11-year sentence if he earns credit for good conduct behind bars, Simmons said. Under today’s laws, he would be required to do 85 percent, Simmons said.

With his credit for time served, Clark has about three-and-a-half to four years to go before he is released, Simmons said.

Witkowski’s family was “extremely happy” the case against Clark finally got filed and they were pleased with the outcome, Simmons said.

“They were very happy. The sister was very happy with the resolution,” Simmons said.

Witkowski and Clark met while they were staying in a motel in 1990, and when she saved up enough money to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Tustin they moved in together Nov. 9, 1990, Lt. Tom Tarpley said when Clark was arrested.

The roommates had a platonic relationship, Tarpley said.

The two got into an argument when he borrowed her car that led to Clark stabbing Witkowski to death, Tarpley said.

Investigators suspect she was killed Nov. 18, 1990, but authorities did not find her body until Nov. 23, 1990, a day after Thanksgiving, when neighbors called police to report a foul odor, Tarpley said.

Witkowski’s family lived out of the area and she was not in daily contact with them, Tarpley said.

Clark took Witkowski’s car and drove to Las Vegas, where police found the vehicle on Jan. 17, 1991, Tarpley said.

Clark was robbing banks around the time he met and moved in with Witkowski, Tarpley said.

Clark was sentenced in 1991 to 33 months in federal prison for robbing an American Savings Bank branch at 111 S. Main St., Orange, on July 2, 1990, a Southern California Bank branch at 500 W. Chapman Ave., Placentia, on Aug. 27, 1990, and a Wells Fargo branch at 14601 Red Hill Ave., in Tustin, on Nov., 14, 1990, Tarpley said.

Clark was paroled and then arrested again in 1996 for robbing a bank in Portland, landing him back behind bars, Tarpley said. Clark was out of custody for a few years before being arrested on the murder warrant, Tarpley said.

In 2011, Tustin police had some crime scene items analyzed by the Orange County Crime Laboratory, which helped investigators link Clark to the crime through DNA.

City News Service

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