WASHINGTON COUNTY (ABC4 News) – A 51-year-old man was charged with murder, a first-degree felony, in connection to a deadly shooting in the Apple Valley area of Washington County.
Jason Howard Clinger, 51, was booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility on a $100,000 bond Tuesday evening after he admitted to authorities that he shot 50-year-old Todd Stratton of Rockville with a shotgun.
Washington County dispatchers received several suspicious calls starting around 1:40 p.m. Tuesday from someone who said they needed help but failed to provide details other than a general location in an isolated area, according to Washington County Sheriff’s Lt. David Crouse.
Crouse said sheriff’s deputies tried and failed several times for about an hour to locate the caller’s location. Just before 3 p.m. the caller stated they needed help from the County Sheriff and said: “We are harmless and need help from the County Sheriff.” The woman, later identified as Clinger’s wife, instructed him to follow a dirt road, through a gate, and past the trees, officials added.
The Sheriff’s Office Administration chose to delay the response of deputies until additional information could be gathered.
“It just didn’t feel right and it’s highly unusual. If we have an individual calling for help from law enforcement in their community, typically they’re not reluctant to provide basic information,” Washington County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Nate Brooksby said. “We think of maybe an ambush situation.”
Just after 3 p.m., the caller explained they needed deputies to respond on a death investigation and the victim had possibly been dead for several hours.
Investigators arrived at a residence located on the Plataclay Mine on Coyote Road, where they found the body of 50-year-old Todd Stratton of Rockville who had been shot.
“He was laying there next to his vehicle and had already passed away,” Crouse said. “The firearms had been secured and the individuals involved were willing to cooperate and speak with the deputies when they got there.”
Clinger admitted to deputies that he shot Stratton following an altercation, according to Crouse. Authorities said Clinger had known Stratton, who owned the property, for many years. Stratton had a civil agreement with Clinger to buy the property by providing services, and the two would frequently argue about whether those services were being fulfilled.
“On this particular date, there was a heated exchange,” Crouse said. “The original reports were that Mr. Clinger then retreated into the house where he retrieved a firearm, came outside and shot Mr. Stratton.”
Court documents show Clinger told authorities that Stratton was unarmed, revealing that he was “surprised when the shotgun went off.”
Crouse said it had been at least two or three years since deputies have investigated a homicide in an unincorporated area of the county, adding that murders and homicides are more frequent in more populated areas such as St. George.