CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. –- The widow of a father of four whose death more than two years ago has now been reclassified as a homicide after a series of CBS 6 investigations broke down in tears when she heard the news Wednesday.
“I was told that they are reclassifying the case as homicide," Nick Clavier’s widow, Melody said. "There was absolutely no way that Nick did this to himself.”
Daughter: I saw driver point gun at our car
Nick Clavier was killed October 24, 2015, from a gunshot to the head, and his family has been searching for the truth ever since, despite the medical examiner first ruling the death accidental.
“I thought this would be something I would have to fight forever,” said Melody Clavier.
Clavier was driving with his four children down Hull Street for a fishing trip when he was shot in the head, and the car veered down the embankment and slammed into a tree in a patch of woods next to Cross Point Church of the Nazarene.
“We were going so fast because his foot was on the gas,” said Nick’s daughter Mikayla Clavier. “Blood from his head was going everywhere. I was covered in blood.”
Officials determined that Clavier’s gun accidentally discharged, but the children had a different account of events.
“In my heart obviously, what happened was the story I have been told over and over by my children — which was that somebody shot him,” Melody Clavier said.
Her older daughter Mikayla, who was in the passenger seat, said she saw a man pointing a gun from a car that pulled up next to them.
“I heard a loud noise,” Mikayla said. “I looked over and saw my dad, he was bleeding and blood was going everywhere.”
She said she saw the car but didn't catch the license plate.
Mikayla said she saw the car drive off fast, and that it was "greenish gray and had a stripe down the middle."
Mikayla drew a sketch of a car she said she saw pull away after her dad was shot.
Case status changed several times
After CBS 6 interviewed the family in May 2017, police changed the status of the case from cleared to pending.
The status of Clavier’s death investigation was changed several times, from accidental, to undetermined, and now to homicide.
In December 2016, ballistics came back on the bullet recovered from Nick’s brain.
“The markings indicate that it could not have been fired from the .380 pistol recovered from the vehicle,” Melody read. “Makes it impossible to exclude homicide," she continued reading from the report.
Investigators still told Melody that the bullet left in the chamber could have been from a gun range, and that’s why it didn’t match.
The Medical Examiner’s report also stated that “the wound path is very unusual for a self-inflicted wound,” but an FBI profiler initially indicated after the accident “factors which could support suicide.”
Melody said that no gunpowder was found on Clavier’s hands.
She added that Clavier was on antidepressants, but that should never have become a justification for suicide.
In December 2017 Chesterfield Police went back to the field where Clavier crashed and spent around six hours digging for clues.
Investigators raked through the field, ran a metal detector over the area, and recreated some of the events that occurred that day.
"We’re doing much of the same things we did the day that the incident happened we’re just going back redoing just to make sure that there was nothing that was missed or overlooked,” Chesterfield Police Captain Mike Louth said at the time. “Really this is the only way we can say that we’ve done everything that we could logically to find out where the truth is.”
Case reclassified as homicide investigation: 'The kids were right'
Police confirmed with CBS 6 on Wednesday that the case had been classified as a homicide.
"As a result of additional forensic testing and information, the investigation of Nick Clavier’s death will be reclassified from 'undetermined' to 'homicide,'" said Liz Caroon, with Chesterfield Police.
Clavier said she broke down in tears when police informed her of the news Wednesday.
“Honestly, the last several months with the team of people who are working this case, it’s finally starting to restore some hope,” said Clavier.
“There was a lot of sympathy shown. I think it is very big of them to be able to look at me and say that they are genuinely sorry for the fact that it has taken this long to get this answer this ruling,” said Clavier.
Clavier said she does not hold a grudge.
“Ultimately, what I wanted was for my children’s voice to be heard and I’m pleased with the outcome,” Clavier said.
Clavier said it was important for her to seek the truth for her children. Nick’s death certificate states that he “shot self with handgun.”
“I knew from the beginning in my heart that he would have never been capable of that, but just to finally have somebody say, 'Yeah OK. The kids were right.' It’s just an overwhelming feeling of mixed emotions,” she added.
“I know my dad loved me, so he would never put me in danger,” said Mikayla. “It was very hard for people to think he would put us in danger like that. And I am very relieved now that people know he didn’t put us in danger -- that it wasn’t his fault.”
Police urged anyone with information to come forward and contact the police department’s Unsolved/Major Investigations Group at 804-796-7091 or Crime Solvers at 804-748-0660 or through the P3 app.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS:
OCTOBER 24, 2015 – Nick Clavier suffers a fatal gunshot wound to the head while driving with his kids in the car. The car goes off the road and crashes into a tree in the 8700 block of Hull Street Road.
OCTOBER 26, 2015 – First CBS 6 report on Clavier’s death. A Chesterfield police spokeswoman tells us: "The investigation continues, but at this point police do not suspect foul play and are not searching for anyone else in relation to the incident."
FEBRUARY 3, 2016 – Clavier’s family members tell CBS 6 that police have ruled his death to be accidental.
DECEMBER 13, 2016 – Ballistics report on the bullet recovered from Clavier’s brain is completed. It states that: “The markings indicate that it could not have been fired from the .380 pistol recovered from the vehicle…Makes it impossible to exclude homicide.”
Medical examiner changes the manner of death from accidental to undetermined.
MAY 12, 2017 – CBS 6 reporter Laura French's first investigative report about this case airs. Clavier’s 11-year-old daughter said that she saw someone in a passing car shoot and kill her dad. Gun expert backs up the ballistics report.
Police tell CBS 6 they still do not believe that Clavier died as result of a homicide, and that his death remains cleared as an accidental death.
MAY 22, 2017 – New witness comes forward because of initial CBS 6 report. Tells police that she helped the kids after the crash, and verified that they said someone had shot their father.
Family contacts State Senator Amanda Chase, and her office confirms to us that they have reached out to police for more information.
MAY 23, 2017 – Police change the status of the case from cleared to pending. They tell us: "[Chesterfield Police Chief] Colonel Dupuis has asked for a review of the case in light of new statements," Chesterfield Police Records Administrator Karen Leonard said. "Therefore, we have changed the status of the case from Cleared to Pending while we investigate further."
JUNE 13, 2017 – Clavier’s wife tells CBS 6 that the FBI is now involved in the investigation, and that she has met with agents.
JUNE 22, 2017 –Clavier’s children are interviewed by the FBI. A child witness expert and a therapy dog from DC are also on hand.
SEPTEMBER 26, 2017 – Clavier’s wife tells us that investigators told her that his gun is being re-tested.
DECEMBER 15, 2017 – Chesterfield police return to the patch of woods where Clavier crashed his car after being shot. Spend six hours digging for clues.
Police tell CBS 6: “We’re doing much of the same things we did the day that the incident happened we’re just going back redoing just to make sure that there was nothing that was missed or overlooked….Really this is the only way we can say that we’ve done everything that we could logically to find out where the truth is.”
APRIL 25, 2018 – The RTDNA announces that CBS 6 has won a regional Murrow award for “News Series” for our coverage of the Clavier case.
MAY 9, 2018 – Chesterfield police announce that the investigation of Clavier’s death will be changed from “undetermined” to “homicide.”
Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for complete coverage of this important local story.