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Suspect charged with Kern murder is scheduled for hearing next week

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Michael Clark

Cherrill Clark had a bad feeling about her stepson’s disappearance.

Michael Clark left his home in Walla Walla, Wash., to start over in Kern County. Cherrill Clark said her stepson always texted “I love you” or called home every couple of days.

Those messages stopped coming around April 1, 2019, said Richard Clark, Michael Clark’s father.

Determined for answers, Cherrill Clark filed a missing person report with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office and solicited help from Kern River Valley residents to post missing-person posters. No answers surfaced until a deputy called her in August 2019.

Michael Clark’s body was found Aug. 25, 2019, in the Kern River, said Cherrill Clark.

Hannah Tubbs, 26, was arrested May 6 in connection with Michael Clark’s death.

Tubbs had a pre-preliminary hearing Friday and a judge scheduled Tubbs’ preliminary hearing for Monday, said Kristin Davis, Kern County Superior Court’s spokeswoman. Monday’s hearing could last up to four hours, Davis added.

Tubbs has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and second-degree robbery charges in Michael Clark’s death, and is being held on $1 million bail, according to Assistant District Attorney Joseph Kinzel.

A Kern County court official noted that all documents pertaining to the case are sealed.

“We want people to know that Michael was a real person,” Cherrill Clark said. “He was a gentle, loving person. He had a lot to offer and that was taken away from him.”

Criminal history

Tubbs has a criminal record that started when she was a minor, according to Shea Sanna, a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles County, who handled a previous conviction Tubbs had there.

Tubbs’ criminal record began with a Jan. 1, 2014, incident, when, less than two weeks away from turning 18 at the time and pretransition, Tubbs, who went by James Tubbs at that time, sexually assaulted a victim younger than 10 years old, Sanna said.

Tubbs evaded authorities and the case went unsolved. Tubbs was later taken into custody again and ultimately convicted for a March 2020 assault, Sanna said.

In that case, Tubbs stabbed a man during an argument on or about March 5, 2020, according to court records and Kern County Sheriff’s Office field reports. The victim suffered a collapsed lung and two small lacerations.

Tubbs pleaded no contest to the assault charge in a Kern County courtroom in December 2021, and was sentenced to four years in prison.

While Tubbs was serving time in Wasco State Prison for the 2020 stabbing, the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office extradited Tubbs because of newly obtained evidence in the 2014 sexual assault investigation: DNA connected Tubbs to the incident, Sanna said.

In a Los Angeles County courtroom, Tubbs immediately pleaded guilty, Sanna said, in order to receive a lighter sentence. Tubbs, who was 17 at the time of the 2014 incident, understood how she would benefit from policies instituted by District Attorney George Gascon that barred any minors from being considered as adults.

Tried as a minor, Tubbs was sentenced to two years in December 2021. If tried as an adult, Tubbs could have faced 24 years in prison, Sanna added.

“Tubbs should have been tried as an adult,” Sanna said. “It’s clear he’s violent ... and a sexual predator,” he added, referring to Tubbs. “He’s going to do it again.”

The situation prompted Gascon to issue, in a statement, a rare reversal of his policy regarding the prosecution of minors.

“After (Tubbs’) sentencing in our case, I became aware of extremely troubling statements she made about her case, the resolution of it and the young girl that she harmed,” Gason said previously Feb. 20.

“If we knew about her disregard for the harm she caused,” Gascon added, “we would have handled this case differently. The complex issues and facts of her particular case were unusual, and I should have treated them that way.”

Greg Risling, a spokesman for the L.A. County DA’s office, wrote in an email that Gascon was unaware of the murder allegation against Tubbs until “recently.”

“As a result, we were never given the opportunity to consider this critical information before proceeding with our case in Los Angeles County,” Risling wrote. “The murder in Kern County took place before our case was adjudicated.”

Ishani Desai can be reached at 661-395-7417. Follow her on Twitter: @idesai98.