A husband who recently confessed to submerging his wife's body in the ocean after killing her in their Torrance home 31 years ago has changed his story.
Michael Lubahn Clark said in an interview with the Daily Breeze that investigators won't find his wife's remains off the coast of Rancho Palos Verdes because he never put her there.
"That was my original plan," Clark said. "I've been told not to talk about details right now. She may be somewhere else."
Clark's son, Michael Lubahn Jr., said his father has told investigators where his wife's remains are located, but Clark, prosecutors and Torrance police all declined to comment on where they plan to look.
Torrance police Sgt. Robert Watt said detectives are working to verify Clark's latest account now that he has told them the ocean should not be their focus.
"He has now recanted that statement and we are now working on his new statement," Watt said. "Detectives and the D.A.'s Office continue to work these leads so the family can have closure on what happened to Carol Lubahn."
Clark, 59, called the Daily Breeze from jail, saying he primarily wanted to apologize to the public for putting on a six-week trial for a crime he ultimately confessed to committing after a jury convicted him.
"I wish I could turn everything back," he said. "Something happened that night, and I was exhausted. It was over before I realized. I don't know what happened. I can't even explain it."
In the 20-minute interview, Clark refused to discuss how he killed his 26-year-old wife or where he put her body, but he said he spoke to investigators and provided them with new information, which he said is the truth.
"I just want closure and to get it over with so everybody can settle down and get back to their lives," Clark said. "Everybody's lives have been turned upside down for two years."
Clark's new story is the latest twist in three decades of lying about what happened to his wife, a woman he met while they were students at North High School. Carol Lubahn was last seen on March 31, 1981.
From the beginning, Clark contended his wife left him in the middle of the night following an argument over whether to sell the house. Although Carol Lubahn left behind a 10-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter, her family members believed Clark's story. He continued working for her father, Milton Meyer, attended family events, and eventually inherited Meyer's painting business when Meyer retired.
The whole time, Clark kept the truth to himself.
"It wasn't easy," Clark said. "It never left me. I worked with Milt almost every day. It was tough. I can't even imagine how I did it."
Clark remarried, had two more children, moved to Huntington Beach and continued on with this life.
Torrance police detectives, however, never believed Clark. Over the years, investigators reopened the case several times and tried to solve it, but the case went nowhere without a body, forensic evidence or witnesses.
About six months before his arrest, Torrance detectives again interviewed Clark. This time, investigators and prosecutors began building a case against him based on sometimes subtle differences in his statements about his wife's disappearance to family members, police officers, friends and a reporter.
Clark said he believed he had gotten away with the crime until Torrance detectives surrounded him on his driveway when he walked outside to go to work April 13, 2011.
"I had no idea they were coming," Clark said. "If you followed the trial, they never did anything. After awhile, I thought they were never coming. I was shocked when they did."
Despite the arrest, Clark said he still believed he would eventually be set free, especially after consulting with a prominent South Bay attorney at his murder arraignment in Torrance court.
Clark said the attorney - who he would not identify - told him he stood little chance of conviction without a body, a murder weapon or even a drop of blood.
As a result, Clark prepared himself for trial, rejecting the prosecution's offer of a shorter prison term if he would simply tell detectives where they could find his wife's remains.
Deputy District Attorney John Lewin, a veteran prosecutor who specializes in putting spouse killers in prison, offered Clark a six-year sentence if he would just tell the truth.
Clark's son, who never asked his father if he committed the crime but suspected he did, said he encouraged his father to take the deal.
"He never said he did it. He never said he didn't do it," the son said. "He thought he could beat it. I think it was a gamble he took."
After weeks of testimony, jurors wasted little time convicting Clark of second-degree murder, which carried a mandatory sentence of 15 years to life in prison.
The decision surprised Clark, who testified on his own behalf and had expected to go free. He said he even developed a plan to help bring closure to his family members.
Clark said that had he won his case, he would have sent an anonymous letter to Carol's mother, Melba Meyer, purported to be from an "anonymous" person claiming to be her killer.
"I would have just said, `I followed the trial. This is what happened. This is where she is,"' Clark said. "I thought it was a win-win situation. They got what they needed. It didn't work out that way."
Clark's son learned of the plan and said it bothered him.
"I can't deny it doesn't," Lubahn Jr. said. "There isn't a win-win there. To be honest with you, would my dad have ever done that? I don't think so. I don't truly believe he would have done that."
At a court hearing in December, Clark listened as Carol's sister, Terri Meyer Samuelson, asked Judge Eric Taylor to reduce Clark's sentence as an inducement to get Clark to reveal the burial site. Clark's son encouraged him to do the same.
Clark said the speeches influenced him. He told his attorney, Kevin Donahue, he wanted to think about it and returned to jail.
"One of my best friends was sitting in the front row," Clark said. "I looked at her and said, `Let's put this to bed."'
When he returned to court Jan. 7, Clark met with Lewin and Torrance police detectives and admitted that he killed his wife. Clark told Lewin he became upset when she told him she planned to end their 10-year marriage and leave him for another man. As Carol tried to comfort him, he pushed her, causing her to fall, hit her head on a table and die.
The story, however, did not pass muster when Clark took a lie detector test, so he altered it to say he had punched Carol, causing her to fall, Lewin said.
And, he said, he hid her body behind a roll of carpeting in their garage, tied her to rope and cinder blocks, drove her body to a cove near the Point Vicente Lighthouse, paddled out about 500 yards, and submerged her.
On a foggy day two days later, Lewin, sheriff's deputies and Torrance police officers brought Clark from jail to a boat in San Pedro and took him on a ride to the Rancho Palos Verdes cove. They planned to scout the area so Clark could point out where he left the body, but it was too foggy for anyone to see.
In reality, Clark said in the interview, the boat ride was unnecessary because he had nothing to tell them.
"I didn't think they would ever go out there," Clark said. "When they did, I didn't know what to do. I didn't want it in the newspapers and on TV. That wasn't my idea."
Why he would make up a story meant to provide closure to his mother-in-law and children was unclear. Since then, Clark met with investigators again and changed his story.
"I want everybody to know how bad I feel," Clark said. "I feel so bad about it all. It was all bad."
Samuelson, Carol Lubahn's sister, said she just wants Clark to tell the truth and wants her sister's remains to be found.
"As each little bit of his lies come out I get angrier and angrier," Samuelson said. "How am I going to believe him now until they can prove it? I would like to know what happened to her as well."
For Clark's son, the jury's verdict and Clark's confession - whether true or not - has proved confusing. Suspicious for about the last 10 years, Lubahn Jr. finally has official word that his father killed his mother.
Clark's son said he continues to support his father, visiting him in jail and taking his calls. After years of supporting and believing his father, he has not figured out how to feel.
He credits retired Torrance Police Department Detectives Walt Delsigne and Jim Wallace, and Lewin, for their perseverance in providing his family with answers to what happened to his mother.
"I'm in a weird position," the son said. "I'm very close to my father. It is a unique kind of dynamic here. It's complicated. I know the story hasn't ended yet. I'm still processing every detail. I've been in business mode. When everything is finally said and done, I'm going to have to evaluate. I'm loyal to both my parents."
Lubahn Jr. said he had believed his father's story for 20 years. As a boy, he figured his mother had a reason for leaving the family. He expected her to return, but each graduation or funeral would pass without her.
"I thought maybe she needed to go to another place," the 41-year-old Orange County resident said.
Lubahn Jr. said he became suspicious of his father in the early 2000s when his father's second marriage broke up.
"When my stepmother left my father, I saw his reaction to that," the son said. "He just talked about her all the time for years. When it came to my mother, he never said a word about her."
When the jury announced its verdict in October, Lubahn Jr. was not in the courtroom. He arrived late, found Torrance Police Chief John Neu on the courthouse steps and learned his father had been found guilty. He walked away, sat in his car and tried to make sense of it.
"I was upset," the son said. "Nobody really wanted the outcome. We just wanted the truth."
Lubahn Jr. said he encouraged his father to tell authorities where his mother's remains were.
As his father talked to police, Lubahn Jr. said he decided he did not want to know what happened in his house the night his mother died.
"In an attempt to want to lead to a road of future forgiveness for this, I don't know if I need to know of every intimate second," he said.
Lubahn Jr. said he remembers his mother and going to the beach with her. He wishes he recalled more.
"One of the tragedies of this is when somebody dies and you know that, you instantly lock in memories," he said. "But I always thought my mother was coming back. I took for granted those memories."
Lubahn Jr. said he does not know how long it will be until he sorts everything out.
"If you ever met my father, he's a real nice guy," the son said. "I don't know what happened."
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