A retired former Marine who neighbors say obsessed over his University Park lawn is being held on $3 million bond, accused of gunning down a neighbor whose puppy allegedly urinated on the man’s well-manicured grass.
Charles J. Clements, 69, of University Park routinely wins the Chicago suburb’s beautification and lawn upkeep award but is also known for threatening children or adults who dare set foot in his yard, neighbors said.
On Sunday night, Joshua Funches, a 23-year-old father of two, was walking his fox terrier Gucci when the dog lifted its leg and urinated on Clements’ lawn, said Funches’ mother, Patricia, 53. The two men began arguing and at some point, Clements, a retired bus driver, pulled out a pistol and pointed it at Funches, said Will County assistant state’s attorney Sondra Denmark.
Witnesses said Funches then said to Clements, “Next time you pull out a pistol, why don’t you use it?” Denmark said. At that point, witnesses said they saw orange and white light and heard a loud noise. They saw Funches fall to the ground. It was all over a little wooden plaque,” said an emotional Patricia Funches, referring to the town’s beautification award. “It was a senseless death. How can you take a life for a piece of wood?”
Clements then walked home and changed his clothes. When University Park police arrived, they found the master landscaper in his garage with the door open. “I knew you were coming for me,” he told police, according to Denmark. “That’s why I changed my clothes. I knew you were coming for me.” Neighbors were shocked that such deadly violence could have stemmed from a minor fight.
“It hurt me pretty bad, to see a person killed over something so petty,” said Joanne Byers, who lives across the street from where Funches died. Funches had two children, ages 1 and 4, with another due to be born in August, his mother said. Byers said her own son had a run-in with Clements, once accidentally stepping on the man’s grass while walking and chatting on his cell phone.
“Man, he popped out and called, Hey watch it – watch it!’ ” said Byers.
Judge Marzell Richardson ordered Clements, who has no criminal history, held in lieu of $3 million bond Tuesday on first and second-degree murder charges. He noted that Clements allegedly told his victim he would be found innocent if arrested.