Prosecutor opposes release for killer

WARREN – The Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office is once again opposing a parole release for convicted local murderer Clifford ”Sonny” Belden, citing threats by Belden against his former wife as a reason to keep him behind bars.

Belden’s family meanwhile says the inmate has already spent 27 years of a sentence of 18 years to life in prison and his prison record alone should be deserving of a release.

Belden, 52, is in Grafton Correctional Institution scheduled for a parole hearing later this month. He was last denied parole in July 2011.

A judge also previously refused judicial release of Belden in May of 2003 after a local attorney said the convicted murderer should have been released after serving 13 or 14 years.

Belden in 1986 pleaded guilty to the murder of Gregory Tonkovich, 18, and the shooting, or attempted murder, of his ex-wife, Kelly. He also was convicted of a gun specification since a firearm was used in the Dec. 29, 1985, shooting.

The two victims were shot in front of Belden’s 2-year-old daughter.

Watkins – in his latest letter to Parole Board members – said Belden ”with malice and premeditation” killed Tonkovich and shot his wife Kelly four times. Two bullets still remain in her body.

In Watkins’ letter, he says Kelly was once picking up her daughter from a visitation at the home of Belden’s parents and was asked to answer the phone only to be threatened with death once he got out of prison.

Belden’s parents Eileen and Clifford Belden deny the story and say the situation never took place.

”Kelly would lie if it suited her best,” Mrs. Belden said. ”She visited Sonny every chance she could when he was in the county jail. How could she be afraid of him?”

Mr. Belden said his son should have taken the matter to trial. ”This was a crime of passion. It was a horrible thing for him to do. But he has done everything that was asked of him since he has been in prison. He’s taken every course they recommended” he said.