New Port Richey police charge man in 2001 beating death

Simon Clarke
Simon Clarke
Published April 18, 2018

NEW PORT RICHEY — A man was charged with first-degree murder in January in connection with a death in New Port Richey in 2001.

Randy Petersilge, 50, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Simon Clarke, 41. Coworkers of Clarke found him beaten to death in November 2001 at a construction site for a friend's home on Sanctuary Drive near the Gulf of Mexico. New Port Richey police officers re-opened the case in 2016 as part of a push by Sgt. Christopher Mellecker to look into cold cases. In January, detectives found the man they believe killed Clarke.

Petersilge is serving a sentence at Coleman United States Penitentiary 2 in Sumter County after being convicted of being a felon in possession a firearm. Petersilge was supposed to be released from prison in 2019.

Joe Ioppolo, New Port Richey's lead detective on the case, said the State Attorney's Office is working out whether Petersilge will finish his sentence before he is transferred to Pasco on the murder charge. The prison has placed a detainer on him.

Police identified Petersilge as a suspect when the crime occurred, but important witnesses did not cooperate with them, so they could not build a case against Petersilge, Ioppolo said. New testimony from a key witness who did not originally cooperate was crucial to the case, he said. Ioppolo declined to give specifics, saying the case was still sealed.

Clarke was married with two sons who were 11 and 16 at the time of his death. He had moved to the U.S. from England and worked in property rentals. Clarke's younger son, Adam Clarke, sent the Tampa Bay Times a statement from the family last week via email. It read in part:

"Despite our grief, we maintain an unwavering commitment to the pursuit of justice for Simon. This indictment represents an important step forward in what has been, and will continue to be, a difficult and protracted process."

Assistant State Attorney Chris Billings will prosecute the case. He declined to comment on it at this time.

Petersilge has previous convictions in Florida for aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, battery on a law enforcement officer, grand theft and burglary.

In the weeks before he was killed, Clarke was helping to monitor construction of a home belonging to his friend, David Pollard, police said. Pollard had hired a contractor, Denise Sanders, to build his home, officers said. New Port Richey Police Sgt. Scott Baker told the Times in 2002 that Clarke "talked to some subcontractors and found things weren't getting done and things weren't adding up."

Sanders was convicted of theft in 2003 in connection to the incident.