Clayton Courtney bound over for trial in killing of Britney Cross

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Frank Schultz
Monday, July 14, 2014

JANESVILLE--A bloody, muddy fight or assault seems to have preceded the death of Britney Cross on May 4, but the reason for the assault remains unknown.

Clayton J. Courtney, 28, of 1602 N. Pontiac Drive, Janesville, is charged in the May 4 death of Cross, 21, of Indianford.

Courtney appeared in court Monday for a preliminary hearing, where some details of Cross' death were revealed publicly for the first time.

Details suggest a violent scene and a possible murder weapon: a bloodstained rock found on top of Cross' hair.

Janesville police Detective Mark Johnson, who was on the scene soon after Cross' body was found, said the body was “covered with mud and blood” and had suffered “numerous” blunt-force blows to the head and face.

The body was inside a narrow alcove between two vacant buildings on Janesville's North Main Street, near the Rock River and Traxler Park.

Cross was identified through jewelry she wore and a tattoo, said Johnson, who was present for the autopsy.

Several family and/or friends attended the hearing; one of them dabbed her eyes and was comforted by a woman sitting next to her.

Parts of Cross' skull crumbled as it was examined, Johnson said. Mud was found in Cross' mouth. Dirt and a small rock were found in her stomach.

The doctor examining Cross' body determined that blunt-force trauma to the back of her head caused her death. A time of death was not determined, Johnson said.

Defense attorney Joshua Klaff asked how that blow was delivered—by a punch, a push, or a fall?

Johnson said the examination did not determine how the blow occurred.

Courtney, when arrested the night of May 4 near his home, also was “full of mud and blood, basically from head to toe,” Johnson testified.

Court Commissioner Stephen Meyer on Monday bound Courtney over for trial.

An arraignment, in which Courtney is expected to enter a plea to the charge of first-degree intentional homicide, is set for Aug. 6.

Physical evidence ties Courtney to the scene, including Cross' DNA under his fingernails and a pocket-sized New Testament that Courtney was known to have carried, inscribed with his name, that was found near the body.

Not far from the body were two shirts with blood stains containing Courtney's DNA and, in some cases, also Cross' DNA, Johnson testified.

One of the shirts belonged to Michael Clark, one of Courtney's roommates, Johnson said.

Courtney had borrowed the shirt to wear before he left their residence to pick up Cross, Clark told investigators, according to Johnson.

Clark was the main target of a horrific assault by Courtney the night of May 4 at their home on North Pontiac Drive, according to a criminal complaint in a separate case.

Courtney was arrested as he ran from the residence, police have said.

Courtney and Cross had dated, investigators have said, and the two were headed to Traxler Park to drink there, under the Veterans Memorial Bridge, Clark said, according to Johnson.

Under questioning from Klaff, Johnson acknowledged that police don't know how the crime scene might have been altered between the time Courtney was arrested the night of May 4 and the time Janesville patrol officers discovered the body around 6 a.m. the next day.

Klaff also asked Johnson whether a search warrant was obtained when Courtney's jeans were taken from him at the hospital, where he was treated that night.

Johnson said no warrant was obtained.

Last updated: 9:42 pm Monday, July 14, 2014

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