The Murder of Michele Dorr & Laura Houghteling
In 1986, Michele Dorr was six years old when she was stabbed and cannibalized. Six years later, in 1992, Laura Houghteling, 23, was stabbed, suffocated, and buried in a park approximately 12 miles from her home. Both victims were among a long list of alleged victims of Hadden Clark, aka The Cross-Dressing Cannibal.
Michele Dorr was born on October 12, 1979, to Carl and Dorthy Dorr. The couple had married a year prior in 1978. In January 1986, the couple separated and began a very difficult divorce. On May 31, 1986, Michele Dorr, 6, was on weekend court-ordered visitation with her father, Carl Dorr, in Silver Spring, Maryland. At approximately 12:00 p.m., Michele and her father ran a couple of errands. When they returned to the home, Michele went into the backyard to play in her small plastic wading pool. When Dorr went to check on his daughter, she had disappeared. Carl Dorr searched around his home and the neighborhood, but still could not find Michele. He reported her disappearance to police, who launched a very large, very extensive search for the missing child.
Dorthy Jean Dorr, Michele’s mother, initially suspected her ex-husband of foul play. Police questioned Carl Dorr and searched in and under his home for any unusual traces of Michele. Psychologists also evaluated Carl Dorr due to his alleged “erratic behavior”. He was found to be of stable mind and authorities deemed him as having nothing to do with Michele’s disappearance. Investigators continued to widen the search area. They interviewed neighbors and one man stood out. Hadden Clark was a man that lived with his older brother, just a couple of doors down from Carl Dorr, but no evidence provided enough probable cause to pursue Clark. Police did not discover new leads or evidence within the community, and Michele’s case grew cold.
Laura Houghteling went missing from her family’s home on October 19, 1992. She had graduated from Harvard University a year prior. During the weekend of her disappearance, Houghteling’s mother, Penny, had been out of town. When she returned to find Laura missing, she immediately filed a missing person report with the police. Investigators began their search and questioned anyone in the family’s life. A possible suspect emerged with the Houghteling’s gardener, Hadden Clark.
Crime scene technicians processed Laura’s bedroom and found a fingerprint on a pillowcase. Investigators found the owner of the fingerprint fairly quickly and took Hadden Clark into custody for questioning. During an in-depth interrogation, Clark confessed to murdering Laura Houghteling by suffocating her. He stated Laura had accused him of stealing gardening tools that belonged to her mother. After murdering her, Clark wrapped Laura in a bedsheet and left through the back door and into the woods without being seen. He buried her in the woods, in a three-foot-deep grave, before returning to the Houghteling home. Clark dressed in a wig and women’s clothes and left through the front door of the home, hoping the neighbors would see him and assume that he was Laura.
The Discovery of Laura Houghteling
Eight months after her death, Clark led investigators through the woods behind the Houghteling home to the site where he had buried Laura. She was discovered in the shallow grave, naked, with no evidence of sexual assault. The medical examiner determined her cause of death as a result of her throat being cut, in addition to manual suffocation.
Investigators looked into Clark’s past and discovered that he had lived in the same neighborhood as Michele Dorr and had been questioned in her disappearance six years prior. They secured a search warrant for the house that Clark had been living in, which was his brother’s home. Detectives discovered trace amounts of Michele’s blood in an upstairs bedroom, in the slats of the wood floor, and arrested Clark for the disappearance and murder of Michele Dorr.
Hadden Clark was born on July 31, 1952, in Troy, New York. He was one of four children born to Hadden and Flavia Clark. Clark lived with his parents in their upper-middle class neighborhood until he joined the Navy. Various reports suggest that Clark’s childhood was unhealthy, that his parents were alcoholics that were abusive towards each other and their children. It has also been reported that during his childhood, he would torture the pets of childhood bullies and that his mother would often dress him in “girly” clothes. Clark graduated from The Culinary Institute of America in 1974 and worked as a chef for a short time until he was fired for urinating into vats of mashed potatoes. This began a period of various jobs over the next few years until he joined the Navy in 1982 and worked as a below deck cook. He was discharged on June 22, 1985, when a Navy psychiatrist diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia. Clark received outpatient services for several years from the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Northwest Washington.
In May 1986, Clark lived with his brother in the Michele Dorr neighborhood until his brother evicted him after he was caught masturbating in front of his niece and nephew.
In 1988, Clark had charges filed against him by a landlord for destruction of property. He received a conviction. In 1989, Clark was convicted of stealing purses from women who were in a choir practice at a Bethesda church. During this period of various convictions, Clark became homeless and stayed either with family members or in his pickup truck. His living situation would change when he was arrested for the murder of Laura Houghteling in 1992.
On October 22, 1992, Hadden Clark was formally arrested for the murder of Laura Houghteling. In the matter of Houghteling’s death, Clark pleaded guilty on June 14, 1993 and offered this statement, “I found Laura alone in her bedroom. I killed her by means of suffocation while she lay in her bed. I removed her from the home and buried her. I suffered no delusions at the time of this crime and committed the crime of my own free will.” He also added that he profoundly regretted his actions. Clark was given a 30-year prison sentence.
In September 1999, Clark confessed to the murder of Michele Dorr. Clark explained Michele had come to his house, looking for his niece, who was a playmate of Michele. Clark led Michele upstairs and stabbed the girl in a bedroom, killing her. He explained he had cut a “Z” shape into her back and attempted to have sex with her remains, though he could not. He further stated that after drinking some of her blood, he put her body in a duffle bag and drove her to a park approximately 12 miles away, where he buried her. It wouldn’t be until January 2000 that Clark would lead investigators to the spot where he had buried Michele Dorr.
The only brief explanation that Clark offered was that he wanted to be a woman, and he thought that by consuming female DNA, it would help to make that happen.
There have been several occasions in which Hadden Clark and his legal team have appealed the legal proceedings. An extensive 75-page court appeal document that discusses Clark’s original trial, details of his crimes, an account of events during the investigations, and Clark’s subsequent discussions with fellow inmates can be found here.
Over the years, Hadden Clark has confessed to a multitude of murders, but investigators have found it difficult to believe his confessions due to his diagnosed mental illness.
On December 15, 2000, Hadden Clark accompanied investigators to a farm that had once belonged to his grandfather, Silas Clark. Investigators unearthed a plastic bucket that contained over 230 pieces of jewelry, including the school class ring that belonged to Laura Houghteling. He offered the explanation that he had kept the bucket contents as “trophies”.
Hadden Clark is serving out his two 30-year prison sentences at the Eastern Correctional Institution at Westover, Maryland.
An Interesting Twist
In an interesting twist, Hadden Clark is not the only cannibal killer in the Clark family. Clark’s brother, Bradfield Clark, was found guilty of a cannibalistic murder in 1985 in California. You can read about that case here.