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Charges refiled against contractor

A man, later slain, feared a friend was being bilked. His detective work led to the charges.

By RYAN DAVIS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 30, 2002


NEW PORT RICHEY -- Simon Clarke's killing last November remains unsolved. But the detective work he was doing when he died will lead to criminal charges after all.

Before he was killed in November, Clarke had come to believe that New Port Richey contractor Denise Sanders was bilking money from his friend. In February, police investigating Clarke's homicide arrested Sanders on charges of scheming to defraud.

But less than three months after Sanders' arrest, the charges against her were dropped. Prosecutors said Clarke's friend David Pollard -- who was the victim in the fraud case -- had been deported to England to face criminal charges of his own. Thus he couldn't testify in a Pasco fraud trial.

But last week, prosecutors refiled the charges against Sanders, who owns New Port Richey's Design and Build with Elegance and Superior Lath and Stucco. Pollard can come back to the United States after all, Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis said.

"Without a victim we're out of luck, but now we have a victim," he said.

That news helps the murder case as well, said New Port Richey police Capt. Martin Rickus.

"It helps getting to the bottom of everything that transpired out there on Nov. 28," Rickus said. "They're two separate cases, but it all involves the same people. It works toward the motive."

Late last year, 41-year-old Clarke was helping his friend by keeping an eye on the construction of the friend's mansion near the Gulf of Mexico. Clarke suspected Sanders was overcharging Pollard for incomplete work, police said.

Clarke, they said, set up a meeting with Sanders for 2 p.m. Nov. 28 at the new house. That night, Clarke's friends found the Sarasota man beaten to death inside the wood frame of the 5,337-square-foot home on Sanctuary Drive.

He had moved to Florida from England seven years ago and worked in real estate.

Clarke's family has criticized the New Port Richey police for not finding the killer. His wife, Caroline, has offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

-- Ryan Davis is the police reporter in Pasco County. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6245, or toll free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245. His e-mail address is rdavis@sptimes.com.

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