MINOT, N.D. – A 26-year-old Minot, North Dakota, man was sentenced Monday to three decades in prison for strangling his wife, a Cheyenne native, last year.
Duell McCall Clifton was sentenced to 35 years in prison, with five years suspended, followed by five years of supervised probation for strangling his wife, Alytreus Rowe-Clifton, 22, to death on June 8, 2020, in Minot.
Clifton pleaded guilty in April to the Class AA felony murder. After he killed his wife, he put her in the car, covered her with a blanket, and drove to Faith, South Dakota, where he was arrested and the victim’s remains were recovered from his vehicle.
Family members who spoke at the sentencing hearing said they can’t forgive Clifton.
“Your jealous rage led to the death of my granddaughter,” said the victim’s grandfather, Robert Rowe, who told the murderer that he has been married for over 45 years and has never laid a hand on his own wife. He said Clifton’s “petty jealousy” and “desire to control someone’s life” and his “depraved indifference to human life” took away his affectionate granddaughter, who laughed at his bad jokes.
The murder happened one year, one month and four days after the couple was married, her grandfather noted.
Robert Rowe said he hopes Clifton’s time in prison is a misery and promised to be at every parole hearing.
“Since Aly’s death, each breath is like a dagger in my heart,” said the victim’s mother, Shelley Rowe, who said because of Clifton, her daughter will never fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse, of having her own babies or of traveling. “She was a bright light that you just snuffed out because you just couldn’t walk away.”
According to her obituary in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Aly Rowe-Clifton was originally from Wyoming and later moved to Minot, where she had many friends. She loved to dance and had been employed at Target in Minot before her death.
Shelley Rowe said she is also sorry for Duell Clifton’s family.
Duell Clifton’s father, Arthur Clifton, testified that all of them are victims of Duell Clifton’s actions. He said he also misses his daughter-in-law and is sorry for her family.
Duell Clifton had no prior criminal history, and his actions appear to have been out of character.
His sister, Amber Kraft, told the judge that Duell Clifton and his wife had been high school sweethearts, and he had loved his wife. She testified that it did not appear to her to be a standard case of domestic violence, but rather “a crime of passion.”
“Please, judge, he just needs the right help,” Kraft said.
Ward County State’s Attorney Roza Larson and defense attorney Ashley Gulke both said the plea agreement that was reached appears fair. Duell Clifton’s state of mental health appears to have influenced his behavior.
Clifton himself had nothing to say at his sentencing hearing.
Judge Gary Lee said he would accept the plea deal. Clifton’s actions appear to have been due to an “unexpected and almost surreal fit of rage,” said Lee, but nothing justifies what he did, and Clifton had been raised to know better and to understand the importance of controlling his emotions in response to marital difficulties. Murder of a spouse is the ultimate act of domestic violence, Lee said.
He said he believes the most severe penalty, life without parole, should be reserved for cold-blooded murderers who plan their crimes, and that doesn’t fit Clifton. However, he said a 30-year sentence is a severe penalty, but will still allow Clifton the opportunity to rejoin society. An evaluator recommended that Clifton also receive treatment for depression or whatever other mental illness he might suffer while he is in prison.
Judge Lee also ordered Clifton to have no contact with any of his wife’s family members for the duration of his sentence and to pay $8,209.30 in restitution for the victim’s funeral costs. Clifton will receive credit for the 413 days he has already served in jail, plus 59 days off his sentence for good behavior.
A second charge, Class C felony tampering with physical evidence, was dismissed under the terms of the plea deal.