Betty Belanger Brock was befriended online by Clayton Ray Strong in 2010 while her husband of 35-years was terminally ill with cancer. Strong lived hundreds of miles away, in Fort Meyers, but showed up at the couple's property, uninvited, pleading to help out around the property in exchange for a place to stay.
Five months after her husband's death, after a classic narcissistic campaign of love-bombing, lies, manipulation, control, and orchestrated alienation from her family by Strong, Betty agreed to marry him.
Betty had unknowingly opened the door to a predator. He quickly took control of her time, assets, relationships, conversations, access to the outside world, and options.
In an initial "love-bombing" (a common tactic of predatory relationship abusers), he bought a new truck and Airstream trailer with her savings, and took her traveling to national parks she had always wanted to see. Combined with controlling her access to her phone and any other means of communication, getting her away from home became an important element of a strategy to isolate her from her family and friends.
From there, Strong began an escalating pattern of emotional and physical abuse, isolation, imprisonment, and psychological torture of Betty. When family intervened, he threatened them with gun violence and used the threat of harming her adult kids to coerce Betty into submission.
When they sought help from police and social services, he threatened to "disappear" Betty. In 2016, he made good on that threat, hiding out in the Airstream trailer in a remote town in Idaho, cutting off communication completely, and using PO Boxes and a co-conspirator to cover his tracks.
By December, 2016, Betty -- a robust and fit outdoors woman -- was dead under suspicious circumstances 2,500 miles from home. Strong told local authorities she died of Parkinson's disease (a disease she did not have) and immediately had her body cremated. The Idaho County Sheriffs Department and coroner made no attempt to investigate her death, contact relatives, conduct an autopsy, or check for domestic violence police reports, in spite of realizing, at the time, that the circumstances were "highly suspicious" (per coroner Cody Funke). They refused to investigate her case, even after being presented with evidence that Strong had subjected her to abuse in Florida, held her as a prisoner in Harpster, had financial motive, and had lied to them about her time of death and health status.
A mere three months after Betty's death, in March, 2017, Clayton Strong married a woman (Shirley Weatherly) with whom he had initiated contact before killing Betty. When Betty's children learned Strong had remarried, they warned his new wife and her family and presented them with the evidence that he had abused and killed Betty.
Tragically, just like Betty and so many women targeted by male control and violence, Shirley "stood by her man." On August 7, 2021, Shirley was found by her son, dead, with a gunshot wound to her chest. Strong had shot her inside the house, and tried to drag her body into his truck. When he was unsuccessful, he had covered her body with a tarp and fled the state. The Texas Rangers launched a manhunt.
According to Shirley's family, Clayton Strong had enacted the same pattern of abuse, isolation, imprisonment, and alienation from family with Shirley. Shortly before her death, Shirley had asked for a divorce and discussed changing her will.
After killing Shirley and fleeing Texas, Clayton Strong was recorded on security cameras disposing of the murder weapon at a department store in Eagle Pass, Texas, near the Mexico border The weapon was quickly recovered by U.S. Marshals.
Strong evaded a U.S. manhunt, but was stopped on a traffic violation in Mexico, and arrested and jailed on weapons charges there. He had brought all of his guns except the murder weapon across the border. He served his weapons violation sentence while awaiting extradition to the U.S. to stand trial for Shirley's murder.
Clayton Strong died in May, 2022, but the authorities did not notify either family of his death until Oct, 2023 (almost a year and a half later).
PCSO says murder suspect died in Mexican jail after cardiac arrest
Parker County Sheriff’s investigators were recently notified by the Consulate General of the United States in Monterrey, Mexico that the suspect of a 2021 Parker County murder has died.
The Mexican Embassy confirmed this week that Clayton Ray Strong, 73, died while in custody at a Mexican jail from cardiac arrest, according to a PCSO press release.
Strong was named a suspect in August 2021 following the shooting death of a Springtown woman who sustained a gunshot wound to the chest.
Investigators identified Strong, who fled the area and was believed to be in South Texas where he was observed on surveillance video at a store in Eagle Pass.
Strong was captured in Mexico two months later and arrested on firearm charges when Mexican authorities learned he had an active murder warrant and contacted the Parker County Sheriff's Office. He was indicted by a Parker County grand jury in March for the murder.
Idaho County Sheriffs Department still has not investigated or publicly acknowledged their error in failing to investigate Betty's suspicious death.
Strong remains in prison on weapons charges in Mexico, and neither the Belanger family nor the Barrington family can be assured he will be returned to the United States and brought to justice.
The Belanger family is legally unable to reclaim, occupy, insure, maintain, or protect their home of 30-years from squatters and vandals. Family members who have lived in Milton, Florida, for generations must drive past their family home and see it, and the gardens Betty loved, left in ruins. If Clayton Strong dies without being brought to justice for Betty's murder, his daughter will inherit the Belanger family home that Strong gained by murdering Betty.
Texas law does not prevent a murderer from inheriting the property of their victim. The Barringtons must undertake expensive legal action -- which they cannot afford -- to try to legally recover their family home. If Clayton Strong dies without being brought to justice for Shirley's murder, his daughter will inherit the Barrington family home.
Both families have suffered the unbearable premature loss of a beloved mother/grandmother/aunt -- and the trauma of losing their beloved to murder. The Belanger family has been subjected to the further trauma of law enforcement agencies that seemed more interested in covering up their mishandling of Betty's death than in bringing a killer to justice and preventing another death.
The families of Betty Sanders Belanger Brock and Shirley Barrington Weatherly are relieved to announce that Clayton Ray Strong has been captured. He was arrested on weapons charges in Ramos Arizpe, Coahuila, Mexico, and authorities there are cooperating with the U.S. Marshals to extradite him to Parker County, Texas.
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