Street view of Oregon West RV
Photo by Bob Keefer

Lane County Businessman Charged with Soliciting Hitman to Kill Wife

Cottage Grove man held without bail after former employee told police he was offered $10,000 in murder plot to stop spouse’s spending on horses. Court records say he had a mistress.

The website for Oregon West RV, a dealership next to I-5 in Creswell, features a slogan posted on revolving national park-themed backgrounds: “Our happy family, making your family happy.” 

At first glance, it could be true — a perfectly normal family life; a house in the country with horses and cars. A family business. 

There is always more to the story. 

In early February, the Cottage Grove Police Department was tipped to an alleged murder-for-hire scheme in which an owner of Oregon West RV asked an employee if he would shoot his wife, the co-owner of the business. 

The tipster, Michael Goings, told police he was solicited by John Robert Clarke to murder his wife and RV business co-owner, court records show. 

CGPD referred the case to the Lane County Sheriff’s Department. At 2:30 pm Feb. 7, Lane County deputies arrested Clarke, 58, on charges of solicitation of murder. He was later also charged with attempted murder and is being held without bail at the Lane County Jail. His trial is scheduled for this summer.

Clarke’s wife took to Facebook on Feb. 9, in a post that has since been deleted.

“Catastrophic choices caused [John] to spiral into mental and emotional meltdown, to a point of them being unrecognizable to you,” she wrote. “38 years are gone in a moment when you realize the person you have loved your whole adult life, is willing to end your life, and destroy everyone around them to accomplish their demon’s goal.”

In October 2022 she posted on Facebook about a disturbing incident that involved her husband. She wrote that she had awakened in the hospital from a coma after she had been working outside with Clarke at the couple’s riverfront home and somehow fell into the water. “I had a pretty catastrophic accident,” she wrote. “John Clarke and I were working in the yard, he went in the house for a moment, and came back to find me floating, face down in the river. Needless to say, I aspirated river water, and had some head, neck, and rib trauma, from the fall, and resulting CPR.” She said in the post she had no memory of the event or the days before it, but concluded, “My husband John Clarke has, once again, saved my life!”

She filed for divorce on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day. The petition for dissolution states that “irreconcilable differences between the parties have caused the irremediable breakdown of their marriage.” Eugene Weekly reached out to her and her lawyer for comment via Facebook, by email and by telephone but didn’t receive a response.

At a Feb. 28 detention hearing, Clarke wore navy blue jailhouse joggers with rubber slides. He appeared exhausted and disheveled. His voice was gravely, struggling to crack out short, yet polite yes’s and no’s. Clarke wasn’t required to address the courtroom at length, only speaking to waive his right to a speedy trial and to agree to remain in custody until his trial date when prompted by Judge Kamala Shugar. 

Clarke’s motive for the alleged attempt is described in court filings. Documents indicate Clarke explained to Goings, the intended hitman, that his wife wanted to buy at least one “million-dollar horse,” and this was “a concern to him, his business, the inheritance his children would get, and may cause 26 of his employees to lose their jobs.” 

Clarke later told deputies that his wife was buying a horse worth $65,000. 

Goings also told investigators Clarke said he could not divorce her because she owned half the business. Clarke’s wife is listed as both the registered agent and president of Oregon West RV, according to the Oregon Business Registry. Clarke himself is listed as the secretary. Files from the ongoing dissolution case state that Clarke’s wife will seek “100 percent of the business.” 

Officials discovered “a mistress” in his text conversations, the court documents say. Clarke later admitted to the affair, of which his wife was unaware. 

Goings walked deputies through a chain of events leading to when he was allegedly propositioned by Clarke to commit the murder of his wife. According to the affidavit of probable cause, Goings told them that Clarke had asked to have a face-to-face meeting. 

Text messages include Goings asking about the nature of the meeting. Clarke replied that it was about “a project.” 

At the beginning of their meeting, Clarke asked for Goings’ smartwatch and cell phone. Goings obliged, despite feeling “odd” about the request; Clarke put both men’s electronics in a safe, Goings told investigators.

Clarke then asked what Goings would do for $10,000, adding something to the effect of, “Would you off someone for 10 grand?” 

Goings, playing along with what he thought was a joke, replied “Sure.” Clarke then doubled down, asking if he would kill someone he knew and made clear that he meant his wife. Goings did not decline the proposition. 

After being confronted with a number of statements he made corroborating Goings’ account, Clarke admitted that he had made the statements that Goings had described to law enforcement. 

He asked if Goings would “off” someone for $10,000, and then asked about killing his wife for $20,000. 

Goings told law enforcement that Clarke showed him three rifles located at Clarke’s business in Creswell, as well as envelopes Clarke claimed held $10,000. Goings described to police officers that at least one of the rifles was a .45 caliber lever action. He also said there was a peep sight on one of the weapons. 

Clarke appeared at Goings’ residence, unannounced, and requested to meet at Clarke’s home two days later to “look at the house.” Goings told law enforcement that Clarke said he had a “bug-detector,” which he would use to ensure the security of the meeting. 

An investigator later contacted Clarke, who confirmed that he had met with Goings at his office. He also confirmed that he had shown Goings the guns, but denied that he had taken his electronics during their meeting. When asked about the bug detector, Clarke said that he had recently purchased such a device.

The trial is scheduled to begin July 11 in front of a 12-person jury. 

In Oregon, attempted murder and solicitation of murder are both Class A felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

“If you are still reading this, thank you, and please, go hug someone you love,” Clarke’s wife wrote on her Facebook page last October. “Life can change drastically in the blink of an eye!”

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