Rape suspect imprisoned in assault, car strike

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Clay

An Augusta man suspected of committing a series of sexual assaults, one of which led to death, received a maximum 35-year prison sentence Monday for unrelated crimes.

A Richmond County Superior Court jury convicted Michael C. Clay, 28, in May of aggravated assault and serious injury by vehicle for beating his ex-girlfriend and striking a high school student with his car.

Mr. Clay faced the maximum because of a prior felony conviction. Judge James G. Blanchard Jr. could have probated part of the sentence but chose not to.

"Mr. Clay ruthlessly beat me while I was pregnant with his twins," said his ex-girlfriend, Kimberly Wright.

The assault took place on Valentine's Day 2006 and into the next morning, Ms. Wright told a jury last month. He broke her jaw and knocked out several teeth.

Mr. Clay also hit David Barnes with a car the morning of Feb. 15, 2006, as he was walking to his bus stop near East Boundary. Ms. Wright and Mr. Barnes testified that they thought Mr. Clay struck him intentionally.

After his arrest in these two cases, Mr. Clay was identified as a suspect in the death of Sherry Rose Murphy, 43. She died about eight months after a brutal sexual assault left her in a coma.

Investigators previously told The Augusta Chronicle that DNA tests also connect Mr. Clay to four sexual assaults in May and July 2000 and to one in June 2003.

Mr. Clay still faces charges in the sexual assault cases. He has pleaded not guilty.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.