New Port Richey man sentenced to life in prison for 2001 cold case murder

This week, a jury found Randy Petersilge guilty of murdering Simon Clarke in 2001. The case was reopened after going “cold” in 2004.
Randy Petersilge, 55, was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole on Thursday after a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder for beating Simon Clarke to death on Nov. 28, 2001.
Randy Petersilge, 55, was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole on Thursday after a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder for beating Simon Clarke to death on Nov. 28, 2001. [ New Port Richey Police Department ]
Published Nov. 18, 2022|Updated Nov. 29, 2022

NEW PORT RICHEY — Nearly 21 years to the day after investigators found a beloved father’s body, bloodied and beaten, inside a new housing development, the man convicted of his murder has been sentenced to life in prison, New Port Richey police said.

For years, it seemed no one would ever know who had beaten Simon Clarke, 41, to death on Nov. 28, 2001 — leaving his body inside a home still under construction on Sanctuary Drive in New Port Richey’s The Reserve at Sea Forest development.

But on Wednesday — after a three-day jury trial — Randy Petersilge, 55, was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Investigators had suspected Petersilge’s involvement in Clarke’s death back in 2001. He was officially named a “person of interest in the case” after detectives interviewed possible witnesses to Clarke’s death. A medical examiner had ruled the case a homicide after finding that Clarke died from “multiple blunt force traumas” to the head and chest, court records show.

Eventually, investigators determined they had found the murder weapon — a baseball bat — that was used to bludgeon Clarke to death. Still, according to court records and reports from the New Port Richey Police Department, forensic analysis of the bat turned up no conclusive leads tying Petersilge to the killing. But as years passed, no arrests were made. In 2004, the Police Department said, the case “went cold.”

Simon Clarke
Simon Clarke

In the years that followed, Petersilge continued building a criminal history, including arrests for crimes including grand theft, burglary and aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, court records show. In 2015, he was convicted in federal court of possessing a firearm as a felon and sentenced to 42 months in prison.

While Petersilge sat behind bars, though, New Port Richey investigators finally got the lead needed to reopen Clarke’s cold case in 2016 — 12 years after his death. According to an indictment for Petersilge’s arrest, a detective with the Police Department was approached by an old witness who said he “had been living with the memories of the incident since its occurrence” and was finally willing to participate in building the prosecution’s case.

The man told investigators he was there when Petersilge began beating Clarke with the bat that night — and another witness corroborated the story, saying that Petersilge told her the man could never testify against him because he forced the man to “strike the victim with the bat as well.”

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In January 2018, court records show, a grand jury indicted Petersilge in Clarke’s murder. And in April 2019, on the day Petersilge was released from federal prison for his 2015 charge, he was rearrested on a Pasco County warrant for first-degree murder. On Nov. 14, his case finally went to trial.

Clarke was married with two sons. They were 11 and 16 at the time of his death. He had moved to the U.S. from England and worked in property rentals.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the relationship between the victim, Simon Clarke, and the person convicted of his murder, Randy Petersilge. They had not had a prior relationship.