•A Fresno County judge terminated probation early for former Coalinga dentist Allen Clare, once suspected of killing his developmentally disabled son.
• Clare’s lawyers said he completed the requirements of his probation following a no-contest plea of dispensing drugs not under his license.
• The judge’s decision surprised Coalinga’s police chief, who had argued for more serious charges.
Four years after former Coalinga dentist Allen Clare was suspected of killing his developmentally disabled son, his criminal record has been wiped clean by a Fresno County Superior Court judge.
In May 2013, Judge Gary Hoff sentenced Clare to three years of probation and 250 hours of community service in connection with the death of his 35-year-old son, Patrick Clare, who died on April 27, 2011, during tooth extraction surgery at his father’s dental practice.
Police said Clare had given his son Valium and a fatal dose of morphine.
Tuesday, Judge James Kelley granted Clare’s motion to terminate probation 14 months early and dismiss the criminal complaint against him.
News of the dismissal caught Coalinga Police Chief Cal Minor by surprise.
At the time of Patrick Clare’s death, Minor believed the elder Clare had killed his son. He wanted prosecutors to charge Clare with murder or manslaughter. But prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to prove either charge.
“It’s disappointing,” Minor said Thursday. “I still believe he is responsible for his son’s death.”
Allen Clare, now 71, was a dentist in Coalinga for more than 40 years.
At the time of the incident, he decided to treat his developmentally disabled son, who had a history of seizures, for an infection in his jaw when his son wouldn’t let hospital doctors treat him.
“It’s the most unimaginable tragedy,” Fresno defense attorney Mark Broughton said at the May 2013 hearing. “Your own son dies in the dental chair at your hand.”
Allen Clare told the judge that his son’s death continues to haunt him.
“I don’t think words can express the amount or degree of sorrow I have had for this incident every day,” said Clare, who pleaded no contest to a business and professions code violation, a felony, for dispensing drugs not under his license.
In announcing the sentence, Hoff called Patrick Clare’s death “a tragic occurrence.”
Tuesday, Clare and Broughton took their motion to terminate probation and dismiss the case to Kelley.
In court papers, Broughton attached receipts from the Coalinga Community Thrift Shop and at St. Paul’s Catholic Church to prove that Clare had completed his 250 hours of community service.
Broughton also showed proof that Clare had paid all his fines and court fees and had stayed out of trouble.
When Kelley asked prosecutor Chris Gularte if he had any objections, Gularte said no. Gularte, a chief deputy district attorney who is in charge of the homicide unit, also didn’t file any opposition papers.
In an telephone interview Thursday, Gularte said he didn’t object because Clare had complied with all terms of his probation. He also said by law it was up to the judge to grant the motion or deny it.
Broughton agreed. “This is much ado about nothing,” he said.
Broughton said it is a common practice by defense lawyers to submit motions to get probation terminated early and a case dismissed.
He also said Clare’s criminal case won’t disappear — it will always be part of the court record, but with a notation that his motion was granted by Kelley.
Broughton asked that the news media leave Clare alone. Clare surrendered his license to practice to the California Dental Board in September 2012, and Broughton said Clare plans to remain retired from dentistry. “He is living a quiet life in Coalinga with his family,” Broughton said.