The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

June 3, 2012

TV show to focus on Bedford murder

BEDFORD — A kidnapping and murder that gripped the region more than a decade ago is being made into a cable television segment set to air this summer.

Sirens Media is producing a re-enactment of the April 30, 2000, kidnapping of Holly Notestine, a northern Bedford County native who was taken from a small dairy farm she shared with her partner, Ronald Grubb, and their two children.

Notestine, 25, was snatched from outside the family’s trailer home just as dark was setting in on a Sunday night.

Regionwide searches

were carried out and posters with Notestine’s photo went up, yet there was no word on her whereabouts until four years later.

In March 2004, Notestine’s skeletal remains were found by a logger in a wooded area about five miles from her Clearville-area home.

Five years to the day of her disappearance, Joseph “Tiny” Clark was arrested and charged with kidnapping and murder.

Police said he had been the prime suspect all along.

Clark first went to trial in early 2008, but the jury, which was brought in from Butler County, was unable to reach a unanimous decision. A second trial in June of that year resulted in a guilty verdict by a Dauphin County jury.

The jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision on the death penalty, so Clark ended up with a life sentence without parole.

Authorities believe Clark had developed a fatal attraction to Notestine and killed her when she failed to return his affections.

The Clark/Notestine case caught the attention of Sirens Media researchers who look “high and low for compelling cases,” said spokeswoman Tracy Evans.

“One of our researchers came across Holly’s heartbreaking story while surfing the Internet,” Evans said.

The researcher discussed the case by phone with state police detectives involved in the investigation and the decision was made to make the show.

It is being done as part of the “Nightmare Next Door” series that often looks at incidents in small towns. It is set to air

Aug. 5 on Investigation Discovery, Evans said.

Filming was done in the Bedford County area in April and a host of locals, including police and prosecution, were interviewed.

Grubb and his children, Logan, now 15, and Chasity, now 17, were interviewed along with state police and District Attorney William Higgins, who prosecuted Clark.

“They interviewed Ronnie and the kids. They taped with me for about four hours,” Higgins said, adding he was unclear how much of that will end up on the cutting-room floor.

Amy Mearkle, a former reporter and anchor with WTAJ-TV in Altoona, provided the media view of the case and the trial.

Mearkle’s insight was considered especially valuable because she grew up on a farm eight miles from the scene.

“It was my hometown, quite literally,” she said.

Clark’s mother, Eunice Clark, was Mearkle’s physical education teacher at the Everett Area High School.

“It was tough covering it when you grew up there and you knew everybody,” said Mearkle, who is now director of marketing and advertising for DelGrosso Amusement Park in Tipton, Blair County.

The questions posed by the producers brought back a lot of memories Mearkle said she had forgotten about.

“They asked a lot about the trials and the guy from New Jersey who admitted to the kidnapping and murder,” Mearkle said.

In the first trial, a Huntingdon County native, David Lucas, claimed that he was traveling through southern Bedford County on April 30, 2000, when he stopped at the Notestine-Grubb trailer, kidnapped and killed the young mother.

His ex-girlfriend disputed the testimony, saying he was with her in a trailer in Millville, N.J., on the night of the incident.

The actor playing Clark is a retired schoolteacher from Washington D.C., who described the show as his first shot at the big time.

Weighing 300 pounds and standing 6 feet tall, Jay Branscomb, 61, is older, shorter and thinner than Clark was at the time Notestine was kidnapped, but he said he did his best to provide an accurate portrayal.

“There is no script; they give us a scenario and they do a voiceover,” he said.

Branscomb spent three days filming a variety of scenes including the kidnapping, murder, arson of Clark’s car at

the Clark family farm and the trials.

“(Portraying) Santa Claus is my best paying gig,” Branscomb said. “But this was my first national gig.”

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