A tell-all manuscript written from prison by a Cape Girardeau man who murdered his wife did not prompt an additional federal charge, prosecutors said in court filings this week.
The federal investigation was instead driven by local officials’ dissatisfaction with James Clay Waller’s 20-year-prison term and a desire to “protect the citizens from a dangerous, sociopathic and narcissistic murderer,” prosecutors wrote.
The disappearance of Jacque Sue Waller on June 1, 2011, attracted national attention, in part because the body of the mother of 5-year-old triplets wasn’t found until two years later, when Waller pointed investigators to where he buried her as part of a plea deal that earned him 20 years in prison on a second-degree murder charge.
Waller’s lawyer, John Lynch, sought in June to have a judge dismiss Waller’s 2016 indictment on an interstate domestic violence charge. Lynch said that prosecutors are guilty of double jeopardy — trying to give Waller more time for the same crime. Waller believes the discovery of the manuscript “infuriated” FBI agents, who asked federal prosecutors to charge Waller, Lynch wrote. Lynch also is asking a judge to throw out statements Waller made during his confession and the search for his wife’s body.
While saying that the actual author was someone else and the manuscript was “in bad taste (perhaps an understatement),” Lynch wrote that prosecution would also be a violation of Waller’s free speech rights. Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Ferrell responded in a 381-page filing Monday that Waller was warned that his guilty plea wouldn’t prevent a federal charge or a charge in Illinois, where his wife’s body was buried.
Ferrell’s response, filed Monday, includes new details about the case, as well as copies of the manuscript and Waller’s confessions to fellow inmates — evidence they will seek to use against him in court. That manuscript has now been sealed from public view.
Ferrell acknowledged that Waller’s prison term left investigators, Jacque Waller’s relatives and even the judge frustrated and unsatisfied.
Cape Girardeau County Sheriff John Jordan wrote in a letter to the Justice Department that Waller “ransomed” the return of his wife’s body for the deal. Circuit Judge Benjamin F. Lewis in his own letter called Waller a “killer who is completely without a conscience,” the filing says.
The deputy attorney general approved moving forward, the filing says. The FBI and others then sought evidence independent of his confession, and in early 2016 found inmates to whom he’d confessed, heard about the manuscript, and eventually tracked it down, the filing says.
Waller, now 46, was indicted in May 2016. The additional charge could mean a life term and prevent Waller from profiting from any book.
In the 182-page manuscript, Waller says that his love for his children and his unwillingness to be separated from them through divorce drove him to commit the murder.
Waller claims that he first thought about killing his wife in June 2010 when she said she “might” take the children away. The couple was discussing divorce after Waller’s wife found out about an affair.
Waller surveyed a 15-mile area along the Mississippi River in a helicopter, picked a sandy spot on Devil’s Island in Illinois northeast of Cape Girardeau and dug a grave. That night, however, he resolved to fix the marriage, the manuscript says.
But counseling failed.
Waller says that he strangled his wife at his home before taking her to the island and burying her in another grave he had dug the day before.
He mocks investigators, saying he left “breadcrumbs” to steer them astray, including fish blood on his truck and in a relative’s boat.
But he says a pastor’s jail visits helped him find faith and realize that he would never be forgiven if he didn’t reveal the location of his wife’s body. He said he originally sought a plea deal that would have meant 10 years in prison, but prosecutors refused to go lower than 20. Waller also included family photos and letters to his children.
He also betrays the confidences of alleged lovers and those to whom he hinted about his role in the crime, or to whom he outright confessed, and says he might have killed two sheriff’s officers at one point if a pistol had been within reach.
In handwritten notes, Waller says he wants his name and the names of others changed, then crosses that out. He says he wants the book to go into local schools and libraries. He also writes that he may get some pen pals out of the “project.”
It’s not clear how many of the claims in the manuscript are true. His description of the murder in the manuscript, and in his 2013 guilty plea, are contradicted by an autopsy, Ferrell’s filing says.
Lynch declined to comment Wednesday, other than to say, “Mr. Waller looks forward to his day in court.”
Jacque’s sister, Cheryl Brenneke, said that she had not seen the manuscript. Asked about his motivation for writing it, she said, “Clay’s motivation for everything is money. Money, money money. And attention.”