Local author finds the courage to tell her tale
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Fledgling local author Marian Clayton has been fearful of telling her story for years, out of concern for the safety of herself and her extended family, as well as from the embarrassing fact that her son was a serial rapist.
But now, she has published a book, “Murder With A Twist,” about the murder of her son while he was in prison in 1992.
The book also examines Clayton’s own life, often in highly personal and critical ways, as she describes her efforts to make sense of what happened to her son and the ripple-effect from the murder that left other inmates dead and Clayton’s life in disarray.
Her son, Mark Henderson, had been convicted in 1986 on charges of raping two teenage girls in Glenwood Springs. He also was implicated in other, prior rapes and attempted rapes and received a 96-year sentence.
He had served about four years, during which he had professed to have developed a deep devotion to Christianity, when he was found brutally slain in his cell.
At the time of the rapes, Clayton and her children had been living in Garfield County since 1984, moving here after a couple of decades on the Front Range. She had been married several times, and her eldest son, Mark, was born during her marriage to a man named Don Henderson, who had little to do with his ex-wife or Mark after the divorce, and had moved out east.
Mark had a family of his own, although his marriage was a troubled one, according the book. He was working with Clayton’s then-husband, the late Ray Clayton, who had a automotive repair and towing service in town.
One night in 1985, out on the town alone, Mark, then 28 years old, headed up Transfer Trail out of Glenwood to a popular spot for teen parties and joined the fun. He ended up giving two girls, ages 14 and 15, – to whom the book describes as “eyecatchers” – a ride back to town.
He ended up taking them to the impound lot run by his stepfather, where he proceeded to tie up the two girls and assault them.
The description of the events that night is direct and unblinking, as is the entire book, as Clayton strives to examine causes and effects in all the lives involved.
Clayton has a flair for descriptive narrative, and despite occasional repetitive passages, the book holds the reader’s interest tightly as it lays out an often-wrenching, occasionally shocking, account of a tough life with an explosive spectrum of sorrow and pain.
Key to the narrative is the fact that, while Mark was in prison, he both he and Marian were befriended by a man whom, as she believes now, may have had a hand in her son’s murder.
The killing itself was accomplished by three “skinheads,” White Supremacists and members of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, all of whom are named in the book and all of whom were caught and tried for the crime. Their faces are among those represented as ghostly cameos on the book’s cover, along with that of Dan Benney, the man Clayton thinks may have been involved in the killing, and two others she has suspicions about.
“I’ve decided it just had to be a conspiracy,” she said, citing evidence, which is contained within the book, that came out after the murder.
All three of the murderers are out of prison, Clayton reports in the book, and she has had moments of fear about possible retribution.
“It took me years to get up enough courage to write this book and tell my story,” she said. But, having been asked often how she ended up raising her grandchildren, she views it as a way to come clean to her fellow residents without having to tell the story repeatedly.
And now, she said, “I don’t live in fear. I refuse to live in fear any more,” although she knows the murderers could easily find her and her family.
“I believe in the power of God, and he’ll protect me,” she declared, showing the kind of faith she feels her son also found while he was in prison.
Clayton, now 74, is a former businesswoman and holds a degree in Criminal Justice from Regis University. She has raised seven children – four of her own, and three grandchildren, including Mark’s kids. At one point, she said, there were four generations of her family living in a single home, from the ages of 8 (a grandchild) to the late eighties (her mother.)
She now works as a deputy clerk in the Garfield County Courthouse.
“Murder With a Twist” is available at Book Train in Glenwood Springs, and Clayton will be signing copies of the book at the store on Aug. 20. In addition, she will be selling it at the farmers market in Glenwood Springs on Aug. 3 and 17.
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Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon will continue to be closed due to “extreme damage” from the latest round of heavy rain and flooding Saturday night, the Colorado Department of Transportation announced Sunday afternoon.