Clark Fredericks, a 49-year-old Stillwater, New Jersey, man, admitted in court that on June 12, 2012, he got drunk and high on cocaine, forced his way into the home of 63-year-old Dennis Pegg — a retired law enforcement officer and well-liked member of the community — and brutally murdered the man in a horrifying and bloody frenzy.
Fredericks admitted stabbing Pegg with a hunting knife at least 20 times in the neck, chest, and gut, taunting him the whole time — then finished the man off by slitting his throat.
And yet, when Fredericks (pictured above, left) finished telling his story in a New Jersey courtroom Wednesday, the gallery broke into applause. Fredericks could have been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole until he was 79, if he had been convicted of first-degree murder.
Instead, prosecutors allowed the confessed killer to plead guilty to second degree manslaughter, which will send him to state prison for between five and 10 years.
What happened? What was it about Fredericks and his case that generated such sympathy for a confessed brutal murderer?
The answer lies not with the circumstances of Fredericks crime, but with what the victim did four decades ago. Fredericks told the court that when he was a boy between the ages of 8- and 12-years-old, Dennis Pegg raped and abused him, physically and emotionally tormenting him for years — even threatening him by torturing and killing small animals in front of him.
The same would happen to him, Fredericks said Pegg told him years ago, if he ever spoke about the “secret” the two of them shared.
At the time, young Clark Fredericks was a Boy Scout and Dennis Pegg was a troop leader.
Pegg was never arrested or convicted on any child molestation charges. But at least one other alleged victim came forward after Pegg’s murder, saying the former corrections officer molested him as a boy after hiring him to mow his lawn.
Fredericks also claimed that Pegg sexually abused his childhood best friend, who later committed suicide as a result of the trauma inflicted on him by Pegg. Police reportedly found images of child pornography on Pegg’s personal computer during a search of his house after Pegg was killed.
Clark Fredericks said that for years, he was afraid to reveal the rapes and abuse Pegg committed against him because the man was a pillar of the community and “no one would believe my word over his.”
In fact, he had buried the trauma deep in his memories, but when in 2011 he saw Pegg in a local store accompanied by an 11-year-old boy, his horrific memories came flooding back.
The following year, said Fredericks, the child sex abuse trial of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky again triggered his past trauma — and this time, the pain would not go away. He killed Dennis Pegg with a hunting knife that Pegg himself had given him as a child.
The confession in court came less than a week after a convicted child molester in Britain wrote a sickening song taunting his now-adult victims from prison.
The whole time he was stabbing Dennis Pegg, Clark Fredericks said in court, “I said, ‘How does it feel raping little kids now? It’s not so fun raping little kids now, is it?’ ”
[Images Handouts via WCBS-TV]