CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- The family of a Chesterfield man shot while driving his children to a fishing trip has urged police to reopen the case, nearly two years later.
Nick Clavier was killed October 24, 2015, from a gunshot to the head; and for his family, the question ‘who fired the gun’ has not been answered.
Clavier’s daughter Mikayla, who was nine years old at the time, was in the front seat when the car crashed into a tree along the 8700 block of Hull Street Road.
Her recollections from the crash are graphic.
“I remember that we were driving down the road we were listening to music, we were all talking then I heard a loud bang, she said. “I looked over and I saw my dad bleeding and blood was going everywhere because his foot was on the accelerator and he was kind of leaned over on the steering wheel; it was not something very pleasant,” Nick’s daughter Mikayla Clavier said.
Mikayla said she blacked out briefly when the car hit a tree. When she came to, she said she tried to stop her dad’s bleeding, but knew she had to get her sister Emily, and brothers Jacob and Hollis in the back of the vehicle to safety.
“In that moment I was thinking that someone tried to hurt us or my dad and all I knew is, I had to be strong for my little siblings,” said Mikayla. “I climbed in the back seat and got everybody out and we were running through the woods and I saw the church, so I ran there,” she explained. “I remember screaming for help and crying.”
The kids had their dad’s blood spatter on them for about five hours, according to their mother, Melody Clavier.
Melody had just arrived in Delaware for her uncle’s retirement party, and she called her husband Nick to let him know she got there safely.
“When I called the police answered, and I immediately knew something wasn’t right,” she said. “They told me that there had been an accident and the kids were fine and Nick was being taken to Chippenham.”
“There was no disclosure about him being shot, just thought it was a minor car accident,” she added.
The closer Melody and her mom got to Richmond, the more she said she sensed something was wrong.
“I got to the hospital and the first thing I did was throw up, just nerves I guess,” said Melody. “As soon as I saw him, I knew that I was there to say my goodbye, which was tough.”
“The wound went from the top left side of his head and kind of scattered throughout his brain and the bulk of the bullet landed in the base of his skull. He was completely brain dead,” she explained. “We pulled the plug and it wasn’t even five minutes and he was gone.”
Melody had to break it to the kids that daddy wasn’t coming home.
“I sat them down and said I have something really, really hard to tell you guys and she (Mikayla) immediately broke down and said no mom, please no,” Melody said.
“The very first thing out of her mouth was, 'Did they catch the guy?'" Melody said. “As a child, if you had seen your dad shoot himself, in a moment of raw emotion that would not have been her statement.”
Chesterfield County Police determined Nick’s gun accidentally discharged, but Melody’s children tell a different story; one that Melody said they were too afraid to share with investigators the day of the accident.
“I saw the guy pointing a gun and I saw the car but didn't catch the license plate,” Mikayla said.
“I saw him pointing a gun out the window and I saw my dad after,” she continued. “I heard the big noise so I knew that he had to have done it.”
Mikayla said she saw the car drive off really fast, and that it was "greenish gray and had a stripe down the middle."
“I asked her why she didn't tell them (investigators) what she was telling me and she said, well they already made up their minds they weren't going to believe me,” Melody said. “She felt that they had already made up their minds that that he had committed suicide.”
Mikayla was with investigators for several hours after the accident but said she was too shocked to relay all the info to them.
“At that point, I really wasn’t sure exactly what had happened,” Mikayla said. I had been really upset and I was still in shock and being questioned right after that happened it was just too much.”
Melody requested detectives re-interview the children and continue investigating the case, but they said they did not want to traumatize the kids.
“I said with all due respect sir, my children saw their father's head blown off, the damage has been done,” Melody said.
Melody lost hope, until December 2016 when ballistics came back on the bullet recovered from Nick’s brain.
“When the Medical Examiner called me and gave me the results of the ballistics that sealed the deal for me,” said Melody. “It was excitement because I felt like this was finally going to be taken care of, this is what I have been waiting for to me it was an answer!”
Melody read portions of the report out loud. [READ: Amended medical examiner's report]
“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.
Melody couldn’t wait to discuss the development with investigators.
“I wanted answers for myself, for my family, for the public and I was told that this changed nothing that it still was remaining a closed case,” she said.
“They said that the bullet could have been from a gun range that he may have left in the chamber and forgot about and that would be why it didn't match all the bullets that he owned,” Melody said of investigators.
Gun expert Marlon Dance showed French the .380 ammunition that Nick’s Smith & Wesson Body Guard 380 took.
Ballistics determined the bullet in his brain was consistent with a 38 special or 357 magnum bullet.
Dance agrees with the state lab that it’s impossible that the larger bullet was fired from Nick’s weapon.
“There's no way that this gun that was recovered out of that car could have shot this bullet,” Dance said, and demonstrated.
And while the Medical Examiner’s report stated that “the wound path is very unusual for a self-inflicted wound,” an FBI profiler initially indicated after the accident “factors which could support suicide.”
“They are determined that he did this and the only thing that brings them to this conclusion is a profiler that says he could have been capable of suicide,” Melody said.
However, Melody said no gunpowder residue was found on his hands, to indicate that he had fired the gun.
“I can understand how arriving on a scene and seeing a man with a gun and a gunshot wound to the head how you can automatically assume suicide, I can understand that -- what I don't understand is how you can be so firm,” she added.
She said she was reassured that those things "were not determining factors."
She also said Nick was a very confident person, very full of life.
“Nick really liked himself,” Melody said. He was on antidepressants, but she said that shouldn't become some swift justification.
She pointed out that she is now on them herself, and in counseling -- along with her family -- for PTSD.
The Medical Examiner changed Nick's cause of death from accidental to undetermined, but Chesterfield Police cleared the death investigation as accidental.
“The science is reflecting a story that the child sitting next to him tells and to me, I don't know how you could leave it closed,” Melody said.
She said she thinks her family is owed a fair shake. Melody also wants her husband to be remembered as the doting dad he was, not the dad capable of putting his children in harm’s way.
“I want for his name to not to be portrayed as a man that would jeopardize his children when that's not the case,” said Melody. “He was a man that lived to a very high standard when it came to his children; he was over the top protective of them.”
“There’s no part in my body that I could ever believe he would do anything to endanger them in any way --what rational father would?!” she added.
Mikayla not only wants to be heard, she wants justice.
“I think they owe it to me big time, I really think they should believe me so we know, so we wouldn't have to spend our whole life knowing that maybe someone was trying to hurt all of us and he's still out there,” she said.
“Just tell us, tell somebody, so at least we know whether it was an accident or somebody tried to do it on purpose,” the child pleaded.
Melody pointed out also that if a person shot her husband, they should be held responsible for it.
“The person who did this has all the confidence in the world right now because they got away with this,” she said. “There's nothing I can do to fix it, there's nothing I will ever be able to do to fix it so at this point as a mom I can't say the bad guy was caught.
She added that her kids were robbed of their innocence – by a thief that perhaps police could get off the streets.
“Chesterfield as a whole I am grateful for their service, but I do feel that in this incident that the ball was dropped,” Melody said.
The only explanation Melody said she had for Nick being shot would be an incident of road rage.
Chesterfield County Police declined our request for an interview but released the following statement:
“The Chesterfield County Police Department has met with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner multiple times, and has reviewed all of the office's findings, regarding this case. Given the totality of circumstances, the Chesterfield County Police Department does not believe that Mr. Clavier died as a result of a homicide. The police department has cleared this death investigation as an accidental death. As in any investigation, we will investigate any new leads or tips that come in.”
If you have a tip to share with police, about the death of Nick Clavier, reach out to police by calling Crime Stoppers at (804) 780 -1000.