Think You Know Your Neighbors? Think Again.

by Staff on October 5, 2011 · 9 comments

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On May 17, 1994, Mina Thompson, a 22-year-old woman, was admitted to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) as a patient. Thompson suffered severe brain damage as a result of having been beaten during a robbery at her place of employment. She was in and out of consciousness and unable to speak. In addition, she wore restraints.

A month later, around midnight on June 17, 1994, Dr. Kris Stegmann, one of Thompson’s treating physicians, received two calls advising him that Thompson had vomited. He arrived at the hospital about an hour and a half later.

When he went to her room to check on her, Dr. Stegmann found the door closed and a note taped to it advised that she was bathing. He felt this was quite odd for several reasons:

  • doors to the rooms of head-injury patients were not closed in the middle of the night,
  • patients were not normally bathed at that hour, and
  • only hospital personnel would be at the hospital at that time of night.

Dr. Stegmann tapped lightly on the door to Thompson’s room and, getting no response, entered. Inside the room, he found Thompson lying near the left, bottom edge of her hospital bed with her buttocks completely exposed. He also saw a male nurse standing at Thompson’s bed, his hips aligned with Thompson’s buttocks. Her restraints had also been undone.

The male nurse appeared noticeably shaken and his hands trembled nervously as he attempted to push Thompson back into her bed and cover her up. When Dr. Stegmann asked the nurse what was going on, he stated that Thompson had vomited and that he had been cleaning her. Dr. Stegmann, however, did not see or smell any vomit.

In addition, the male nurse was not wearing gloves, a precaution usually taken when a nurse cleans a patient or changes a diaper. Dr. Stegmann also saw nothing to indicate that Thompson was being bathed, nor did he see either fresh sheets or a fresh gown in the room.

As Dr. Stegmann moved closer to the bed, he saw that the male nurse’s pants zipper was open. At that point, the nurse turned his back to the doctor, moved both his hands to his crotch area, and made a vertical movement. As he did so, Dr. Stegmann heard the sound of a zipper. He also noticed that the nurse appeared to have an erection.

After the male nurse exited the room, Dr. Stegmann identified himself to the 22-year-old woman who suffered from severe brain damage. After placing her hand in his, the woman squeezed his hand tightly. Dr. Stegmann asked her “if everything was okay” and she “shook her head no.”

The male nurse was later questioned by an MUSC investigator, Lieutenant Robert Brown. During the questioning, in which he denied any wrongdoing, the male nurse wore a fanny pack. He specifically denied having his pants unzipped when Dr. Stegmann entered the room. He told Lt. Brown that the zipping sound Dr. Stegmann heard was caused by him zipping the fanny pack shut.

Later, the male nurse, Clair Edgar Luckabaugh, was arrested.

Suspicious Materials Found

After Clair Luckabaugh was arrested by police, a finance company repossessed his mobile home and had some of its employees box up Luckabaugh’s belongings for storage. One of the employees thought that some of the materials found in Luckabaugh’s mobile home looked suspicious and mentioned it to his supervisor, who made contact with the sheriff’s department.

Sheriff’s deputies, after examining the materials, seized a number of items which were later placed into evidence at Luckabaugh’s trial. These items included certain drugs and medical instruments as well as pages from detective magazines and excerpts from stories that Luckabaugh had himself written.

Not His First Offense

At the age of 14, Clair E. Luckabaugh was incarcerated for attempting to rape a neighbor at gunpoint.

While on furlough from a juvenile facility, he stole female undergarments. Later, he was incarcerated for stealing female undergarments a second time.

At 19, Luckabaugh was committed to a state mental hospital for “an impulse to cut someone and torture them”.

The Trial

At Luckabaugh’s trial, the jury heard testimony from Edmonde Towner, a deaf, 70-year-old former Swiss Citizen who spoke only French, with her sister, Juliette Cato, translating for her.

Towner testified that, on May 14, 1994 (a few days before Thompson was admitted as a patient), while she was a patient at MUSC, Luckabaugh came into her hospital room. She stated that, while giving her a shot in the hip, Luckabaugh pulled her panties all the way down.

She also testified that the next evening she awoke in her darkened, closed hospital room when she felt the bed shake and someone spread her legs and caress her around her crotch. After she pressed a call button by her bed, the 70-year-old woman saw Luckabaugh leave her room.

The woman’s sister and translator, Juliette Cato, also testified in the trial. She stated that on Monday, May 16, 1994, the 70-year-old woman had blood on her hand (due to an improperly inserted IV) and appeared extremely upset when Cato visited with her. She further testified that her sister had told her about a struggle with Luckabaugh, the male nurse, and had referred to him as “a pig”.

Luckabaugh did not take the stand in his trial, but told the judge prior to sentencing that he was in no way responsible for the attempted assault on the 22-year-old patient suffering from severe brain damage:

I still maintain my innocence.

In her closing arguments, Kate Schmutz, the 9th Circuit Assistant Solicitor who prosecuted the case, read from some of Luckabaugh’s writings and said that he had an obsession with helpless victims:

He is past the mere thinking about it and writing about it. He’s actively carrying it out.

Convicted and Sentenced

On January 25, 1996, in less than two hours, a jury of seven women and five men found Clair Edgar Luckabaugh, then 47, guilty of Assault with Intent to Commit Criminal Sexual Conduct in the Third Degree of a comatose patient in his care.

Circuit Court Judge James E. Lockemy called the crime “reprehensible” and stated that he had seen evidence beyond what the jury did, including publications once belonging to Luckabaugh that describe and picture acts of incapacitating and tying up women in order to torture and sexually assault them.

It’s amazing, but sad, that you surrounded yourself with all this filth for I don’t know how long. And then you continued (this lifestyle) at the hospital. This is really sad, sir. But I feel really sad for the young lady in the hospital, already beaten as bad as she was and laying there at death’s door — and you in your depraved human nature inflict more sadness on her.

Judge Lockemy sentenced Luckabaugh to 10 years, the maximum possible sentence.

After the trial, defense lawyer Jim Smiley said that Luckabaugh refused to accept a plea bargain. “He could not say ‘guilty’ to something he was not guilty of,” Smiley stated.

The victim’s family praised the solicitor’s office, Kate Schmutz, who prosecuted the case, and MUH Chief Resident Dr. Kris Stegmann.

Larry Thompson, the victim’s father, said, “If it were not for Stegmann coming forward, this man might still be out there doing this same thing.”

The victim spent 18 months in hospitals and will never fully recover from brain damage caused when she was beaten in the May 1994 robbery at her workplace, according to a newspaper article written shortly after the trial.

Luckabaugh Appeals

Later, Luckabaugh appealed the admission of certain evidence in his trial to the Court of Appeals of South Carolina.

He first questioned the testimony of the deaf, 70-year-old witness Edmonde Towner. He argued that the trial court should not have allowed her testimony because it was not clear and convincing. Since the defense did not offer up any objections at trial, however, the appeals court stated that “the issue, therefore, is not preserved for our review”.

Next, Luckabaugh challenged the trial court’s admission into evidence items that were taken from his trailer home. This evidence consisted of (1) certain drugs and medical instruments taken from his trailer home and the testimony of an expert witness concerning them and (2) pages from detective magazines found in Luckabaugh’s trailer and excerpts from stories Luckabaugh had written.

In his brief appealing the admissibility of the evidence, Luckabaugh describes the drugs as those used “to put someone under sedation and then take them out of sedation, [and] maintain them while under sedation”. The medical instruments were described as “medical implements, such as syringes, vaginal specula, bladder catherers, and enema equipment.”

During Luckabaugh’s trial, the State’s expert witness, Dr. Roger A. Russell, a pathologist and toxicologist, testified that he could not offer up any legitimate reason for a registered nurse to have “a collection like this” in his home. In addition, he noted that he was a physician and did not have any such items in his own home.

In his appeal, Luckabaugh also argued that the admissibility of the above-mentioned items as well as his fictional writings and materials from detective magazines caused undue prejudice against him.

The exhibits representing his fiction consisted of three excerpts from two stories that he had written. Those stories, as his brief described them, concern “bondage, rape, and enemas performed on unconscious women.” The Court of Appeals of South Carolina stated, “We would add they do so graphically.”

The exhibits from the detective magazine material consisted of:

  1. a cover page on which appears a picture of a nurse preparing to give a child an injection, next to a headline reading “Angel of Death in the Children’s Ward”,
  2. a page on which appeared a photograph of the body of a naked woman tied spread-eagle to a bed, along with the caption “Chula Vista sleuths teamed up with Mexican officials to nail the sicko who liked to drug his victims and then have sex with them while they were unconscious • or dead!”, and
  3. a page on which appeared a photograph of a female homicide victim and the beginning of a story about a male health-care worker who discovers the “crumpled,” “seminude” body of a woman.

Appeal Denied

The Court of Appeals of South Carolina denied Luckabaugh’s appeal, noting that the evidence was not improperly admitted into evidence, and affirmed the trial court’s rulings.

Not Curable

Judge Daniel E. Martin, Sr., convened a commitment hearing after Luckabaugh’s scheduled release. At the hearing, two experts testified for the State, Dr. Brad Clayton and Dr. Donna Schwartz-Watts. Dr. Randolph Waid testified for Luckabaugh.

Drs. Clayton and Schwartz-Watts conducted a clinical evaluation of Clair Luckabaugh, both concluding that he suffered from sexual sadism, a major mental abnormality, characterized by “preoccupation with and intrusive problems with thoughts, feelings, fantasies, urges, and behaviors that focus around behavior or thoughts of behavior, about causing harm to others, humiliating, [and] torturing [them].”

Sadism, it is noted, is not curable.

“…most dangerous person she had evaluated…”

Dr. Schwartz-Watts testified that Luckabaugh wrote numerous, graphic stories involving themes of kidnapping, torture, and murder. She found the themes consistent with sadism, particularly his obsession with having sex with unconscious individuals.

In addition, a penile plethysmography — which tests arousal by measuring blood flow to the penis when the subject is exposed to visual images — indicated that he was aroused by images of coercive sexual acts.

Dr. Schwartz-Watts opined that Luckabaugh was a high-risk to re-offend and needed extensive inpatient treatment. Additionally, she stated her belief that Luckabaugh was “the most dangerous person she had evaluated under the [Sexually Violent Predator] Act.”

Dr. Randolph Waid, testifying for Luckabaugh, stated that his diagnosis was essentially the same as Dr. Schwartz-Watts’. He believed that Luckabaugh was a sexual sadist, with at least a moderate risk for “re-event” and in need of aggressive therapy.

Dr. Waid, however, disagreed with Dr. Schwartz-Watts by concluding that Luckabaugh could obtain outpatient treatment.

“…too violent and gross, even for me.”

Testifying at the hearing, Luckabaugh refused to accept the diagnosis of sexual sadism. He admitted attempting to publish his writings but stated that he didn’t because “at some point they got too violent and gross, even for me.” Luckabaugh, however, felt that he would not re-offend after growing spiritually in prison and building a mentor relationship with church members.

Luckabaugh Finally Confesses

While writing this article, I discovered several e-mails that were written by Clair Luckabaugh and sent to a group described as a “Prison Ministry to Sexs Offenders [sic]”. By this time, Luckabaugh had left South Carolina and moved to West Virginia.

In some of these messages, Luckabaugh appears to admit guilt in the Mina Thompson sexual assault case. First, on July 31, 2005, he writes: “I was convicted in SC too without evidence. Evidence was bolstered after waiting 19 months before going to trial.”

Then, on August 11, 2005, he writes: “There are truly innocent people in prison and I for one was not one of them.” A few days later, on August 15, 2005, he writes: “I am a Registered Sex Offender … who was guilty of the crime.”

Family Ties

Information received and reviewed by Mitchell News seems to indicate that Clair Luckabaugh is the father of Edward Scott Luckabaugh, who is currently incarcerated in the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Loretto, Pennsylvania.

Edward Luckabaugh was most recently sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for possession of child pornography. A May 2007 document from the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reads:

After Edward Luckabaugh pleaded guilty to one count of possessing child pornography, see 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5), the probation office prepared a presentence investigation report that discloses a distressing history of sexual behavior directed at very young children. For nearly 20 years the 35-year-old Luckabaugh had been sexually assaulting children; he had raped or molested no fewer than four; his victims were between the ages of five and eight; he committed the present offense while on probation from a 20-year sentence for sexually assaulting a five-year-old girl; he began viewing child pornography “due to involvement with associates attending his court-ordered sex offender classes”; and he had amassed over 3,200 pornographic photographs of children, including images of infants and bound and blindfolded toddlers. Based on his conduct and two prior state convictions for sexual assault of a child, the probation office calculated a guidelines range of 168 to 210 months’ imprisonment and advised that Luckabaugh was subject to a statutory maximum of 240 months. Luckabaugh did not object to the information contained in the presentence report but instead argued for a sentence at the low end of the guidelines range based primarily on his family history of sexual abuse. The district court rejected his argument and sentenced Luckabaugh to the statutory maximum term of imprisonment, supervised release for life, a $ 1,000 fine, and a $ 100 special assessment.

The apple, as they say, apparently doesn’t fall far from the tree.

A Ministry is Born

The Vision of Hope Prison Ministry “was founded behind the walls and fences of two prisons”, according to its web site. Clair Luckabaugh and his son apparently found Jesus while incarcerated in prisons in two different states, although it’s not clear exactly what the Son of God was locked up for.

On various web pages about the ministry, Clair Luckabaugh is identified as the “Co-founder”, “Director”, and “CEO”. The ministry, as best can be determined, appears to “specialize” in ministering to incarcerated sex offenders.

A web page for the ministry on the International Network of Prison Ministries web site states that Luckabaugh’s ministry now operates “as a 501(c) 3 Non-Profit Organization”, meaning that it is tax-exempt under federal law. A search of IRS records for tax-exempt organizations of the same name with an address in Mitchell, Indiana, however, does not return any results, leaving one to wonder if, legally, the ministry is on the “up-and-up”.

Know Your Neighbors

According to its own web site, the Vision of Hope Prison Ministry is located at 13 Lakeside Estates on the north side of Mitchell, Indiana. According to the Indiana Sex and Violent Offender Registry, this is the address that Clair Luckabaugh resides at, presumably with his wife Junice, whom he married June 11, 2009. The registry lists 15 other offenders, in addition to Luckabaugh, as residing in Mitchell.

I spoke with some people I know who live in that area and asked if they were aware of the details of Mr. Luckabaugh’s past. Not surprisingly, none were. It leads me to wonder how many others with similar backgrounds we have quietly residing in our neighborhoods.

In an e-mail written on August 11, 2005, Luckabaugh wrote that, as a registered nurse for 30 years, he “was forced into permenant [sic] retirement” from his profession.

In another 2005 e-mail that we uncovered, Luckabaugh wrote:

“Idon’t [sic] blame you for wanting to know who lives next door to you.”

Neither do I.

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