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January 31, 2015

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Deliberations begin in strangling death trial

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Allainna McClain

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Clifford McClain

Prosecutors in the murder trial of Clifford McClain said during closing arguments Monday that he was not acting in self defense and knowingly killed his ex-wife at a house in northwest Las Vegas last year.

The 12-member jury, consisting of seven women and five men, left the Clark County District Court courtroom at 5 p.m. to begin its deliberations.

Clifford McClain, 29, is charged with murder in the death of 24-year-old Allainna McClain, whose body was found Feb. 17, 2008.

Deputy District Attorney Phillip Smith said the defense tried to depict Allainna McClain as an obsessive and jealous woman with a propensity for violence.

"Allainna was there on that night to pick up her kids," Smith said. "She wasn't there to kill anybody."

Smith also dismissed the defense's notion that Clifford McClain was acting in self defense and tried to prevent his ex-wife from grabbing a knife during a struggle in the garage of the home of Clifford McClain's mother. He reminded the jury of the Clark County coroner's ruling that the death of Allainna McClain was a homicide due to asphyxiation.

"When you asphyxiate someone, they go unconscious first," Smith said to the jury. "You have to keep applying pressure to kill them."

It takes approximately three to four minutes for someone to die due to strangulation, Smith said.

To further illustrate the point, he and Deputy District Attorney Susan Benedict brought out a large clock to give the jury a sense of how long three minutes is.

"Clifford claims this was a life or death struggle, but he doesn't have a single solitary scratch on him ... It doesn't add up," Smith said.

Defense attorney Michael Schwarz reminded the jury that both sides committed domestic violence since the couple began dating in February 2002.

He also said no blood or fingerprint evidence was found on a wooden cane, which prosecutors believe was used to render Allainna McClain unconscious before she was murdered.

"Nothing in the record suggests that this cane was used," Schwarz said.

Metro detectives also obtained Clifford McClain's DNA from the collar area of Allainna McClain's shirt, but Schwarz told the jury that no one has any idea of when that DNA contact was made.

"The state says that my client knocked her out and then strangled her," Schwarz said. "The evidence in this case does not substantiate that claim."

Clifford McClain is also facing charges of assault and battery and domestic violence battery in the death of Allainna McClain.

Jeff O’Brien can be reached at 990-8957 or [email protected].

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