MISHAWAKA — Two years after serving a prison sentence for murdering a 66-year-old South Bend man, Steven Clippinger allegedly turned to violence again on Saturday, killing his brother and sister-in-law in their Mishawaka home, prosecutors said.
Clippinger, 41, was arrested hours after his brother, Matthew Clippinger, and sister-in-law Lisa Clippinger, were fatally shot at their home in the 700 block of East 11th Street around 12:30 a.m.
Steven, who was convicted of murder in 1990 and served 20 years in prison, now faces two counts of murder and one count of being a serious violent felon in possession of a firearm.
Steven allegedly shot Matthew in the garage before shooting Lisa inside the house, according to charging documents. The couple’s two children were home at the time.
The children told investigators that Steven visited the family on Friday night armed with a revolver. Matthew, aware that his brother should not have a weapon given his criminal history, confiscated the revolver, according to court documents.
Steven became angry and left, but he allegedly returned around 12:30 a.m., this time armed with another handgun.
Matthew and Steven met in the garage, and then children heard gunshots, according to charging documents.
Lisa opened the door to the garage and began screaming, the children reported to police. The children reported that they later saw their mother running down the hallway with Steven chasing after her. Then
more gunshots rang out, according to charging documents. The children called 911.
Police said they found Lisa in the hallway, and Matthew just outside the garage on the driveway. Steven allegedly fled in a car, allegedly driven by 40-year-old Jenifer Leveque, who has also been charged in connection with the slayings.
Police said they located Steven and Leveque inside a 1996 Chevy Cavalier in the 19000 block of Auten Road shortly after the incident. Officers said they found Steven with multiple handguns, including weapons consistent with shell casings recovered at the crime scene.
The circumstances of Saturday’s slayings bear some similarities to the murder for which Steven was convicted in 1990, when he shot a close friend of the family, Robert Gibson, after a dispute over a gun in South Bend.
According to Tribune archives, investigators said 66-year-old Gibson was found dead in his South Main Street home on April 1, 1989, after being shot and beaten. Clippinger was arrested and charged two weeks later.
One of the investigating officers testified that Clippinger told him he had approached Gibson, a friend whom the family called “Gramps,” to try to sell him a sawed-off rifle that Clippinger had taken from his mother’s boyfriend.
Gibson took Clippinger to his home, Clippinger was said to have told the officer, but refused to buy the gun and in fact took it away from Clippinger and unloaded it, telling the then-18-year-old he was too young to have a gun. Apparently Clippinger was able to reload the rifle, the two men struggled over it, and the murder ensued.
Clippinger was given a 45-year prison sentence, and was released in April 2010.
In the 1989 case, police questioned his brothers, including Matt, and another brother testified at his trial.
A neighborhood stunned
WSBT's Clifton French has been speaking to family members and friends who are in complete shock.
"He was just a nice neighbor. He had everything going for him," said Cheryl Hickey, who lives next to Steven Clippinger and his live-in girlfriend, Leveque.
Clippinger was getting an education. He only had one week left before he would graduate from Ivy Tech with a certificate in machining.
"His life was taking off, he had Jen, he had a new baby boy, he was graduating from school," said Hickey. "I don't know what to think. I don't know what to think on that."
Matthew and Lisa’s tidy home, with its front-yard flowers and American flag, was blocked off with crime scene tape Saturday morning as homicide detectives investigated the scene.
Several neighbors recalled hearing gunshots just after midnight, at first believing them to be firecrackers. But then they heard screams.
“I’m just shocked,” said one neighbor, who asked not to be named for her safety. “I’m a little bit numb. They were so nice.”
Both Matthew and Lisa worked, neighbors said, and they were good people.
“I just feel bad for the kids left behind,” another neighbor said.
Steven Clippinger and Jennifer Leveque have a 1-year-old son. And Steven Clippinger had just a week of classes left at Ivy Tech until he received a degree in machining.
Leveque, who has been charged with assisting a criminal and transferring a handgun to a felon, both class C felonies, is being held in the St. Joseph County Jail on a $6,000 bond.
Clippinger is being held on no bond.
(Stay connected to WSBT online and on air for updates on this story.)