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News / Northwest

Murderer pleads guilty to brutal revenge killing of beloved Mid-Columbia musician

By Cameron Probert, Tri-City Herald
Published: May 29, 2024, 7:42am

KENNEWICK— The man behind the brutal killing of a respected Tri-Cities musician will spend 30 years in prison.

Christopher Calvert, 46, of Hermiston, pleaded guilty Friday to beating, cutting and stabbing Clayton “Clay” Wick, 76, in 2022.

Calvert then stole Wick’s wallet, took items from his garage and drove away in Wick’s Honda CRV.

He was arrested in Skamania County days after Wick’s body was discovered. Police and federal agents tracked him down to a small town about an hour outside of Vancouver.

Calvert pleaded guilty in Benton County Superior Court to first-degree murder and car theft, nearly two years after he broke into Wick’s home on Buchanan Street.

Judge Diana Ruff then sentenced him for the two crimes, which will run consecutively for 30 years total.

The horrific premeditated murder of the beloved Mid-Columbia musician stood out during one of the most violent years in Benton County’s history.

Wick was described as a kind and gentle man who played bass for the Mid-Columbia and Walla Walla symphonies. When he didn’t show up for a scheduled performance, people became worried.

His housekeeper discovered his body at his home on May 3, 2022.

Revenge killing

Shortly before the murder, Calvert had been fired from a Hermiston, Ore., farm run by Darren Cox, one of Wick’s friends.

Calvert was fired after lying about having a sick daughter and then stealing his boss’ car, according to court documents.

Cox told police that he stored the car at Wick’s home.

It’s not clear when or how Calvert forced his way into the Kennewick house, but the last time the musician was seen was April 27.

Investigators believed a struggle happened in the living room, and they found blood spattered and smeared throughout the home. Wick’s body was discovered downstairs, covered with a blanket.

Cox was the first to tie Calvert to the killing, and a neighbor later confirmed seeing him putting items in Wick’s CRV before driving away.

Calvert also made some statements to a friend that implied that he had killed Wick. That included asking his friend, “Can you dig a hole?” and suggesting that he had gotten revenge on Cox.

When one of Calvert’s friends offered to help him get revenge by cutting Cox’s sprinkler lines, Calvert said he had “done better than that.”

Esteemed musician

Wick was remembered across the Mid-Columbia for his sunny disposition and his dedication to classical music. For decades, he played the double bass in the area symphonies.

He grew up in Minnesota, graduating from the University of Minnesota in Duluth after studying chemistry. After serving in the U.S. Navy, Wick came to Hanford in 1974.

He joined the Mid-Columbia Symphony around that time and became one of its most esteemed and beloved members.

His passion for classical music was infectious, Yaacov Bergman, the music director and conductor for the Walla Walla Symphony told the Tri-City Herald after Wick’s murder. The two spent two decades working together.

“He was very positive, very accommodating and was a good friend to anybody who chose to know him,” Bergman said. “He was a very likable human being.”

Wick also was dedicated to often technical classical music, the Mid-Columbia Symphony said. Friends remembered him writing music on graph paper in music class.

Bergman remembered him as a great collaborator who was dedicated and willing to put in the work needed for a great performance.

He said Wick had a genuine love for what he was doing. It was a love that kept him performing for about five decades.

He performed with the Willow Creek Orchestra in Hermiston just weeks before his death.

He also performed across the Northwest including with the Washington-Idaho Symphony, Leavenworth Summer Musical Theatre, Mid-Columbia Musical Theatre and Oregon East Symphony.

He worked in both small church music groups, small ensembles and large orchestras equally well, the Mid-Columbia Symphony wrote.

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