FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Only once in Fresno County history has a murder been prosecuted without a body – and the convicted man was also the last person to be executed in California.
The case was brought into the spotlight recently when the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office announced earlier this month that charges were being filed against the man suspected of being responsible for the death of Missy Hernandez – despite not finding Missy’s body. However, dive crews did eventually recover Missy’s body in a canal a short time later.
What led to the eventual execution of Clarence Ray Allen began almost 50 years ago.
According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Clarence Ray Allen planned the burglary of Fran’s Market in Fresno in 1974 and recruited two men who worked at his security guard business to assist. He arranged for a woman named Mary Sue Kitts to get the keys for the store from the owner’s son Bryon Schletewitz.
Following the burglary, Kitts told Schletewitz that Allen was responsible for the burglary. That led to Schletewitz asking Allen directly if he was responsible – prompting Allen to arrange for Kitt’s death. Kitt’s body has never been found. Allen was subsequently arrested and convicted of charges including burglary and first-degree murder, receiving a life sentence in 1978.
According to state records, Allen spent his time behind bars plotting to kill the people who provided information to prosecutors. He also got to know fellow inmate Billie Ray Hamilton. Hamilton was later released on parole.
In 1980, Hamilton and his girlfriend Connie Barbo went to the scene of the initial crime, Fran’s Market in Fresno, and purchased some meat. Inside the store was Joe Rias, Byron Schletewitz, Douglas White and Josephine Rocha. Hamilton was then seen holding a sawn-off shotgun and threatened Rias, Schletewitz and Rocha – before asking Schletewitz for the keys to the safe.
The CDCR report details that Schletewitz gave Hamilton the keys and Schletewitz was then ordered out of the room. Barbo was told to watch the others and she pulled out a handgun. Hamilton then shot and killed Schletewitz at close range with the shotgun – before also shooting and killing White and Rocha with the same weapon. An attempt to kill Rias failed as he covered his face with his arm, shielding himself from the blast.
Hamilton was later arrested following a robbery in Modesto, and investigators linked him to Allen due to both robberies taking place at the same location. That investigation led to the arrest of then-current inmate Clarence Ray Allen.
Allen was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder and was placed on death row at the end of 1982. His execution in 2006 was administered by lethal injection. It remains the final execution carried out in the State of California.