Hindman: ‘I know I’m in trouble’

Franklin state police have released additional details about the events that led up to and followed the death of a woman whose body was found in a Polk residence July 25.

Clayton Hindman, 48, who lived in the house where the woman’s body was found, was arraigned Tuesday afternoon after his return from Missouri on criminal homicide and other charges in connection with the woman’s death.

Hindman had fled to Missouri and turned himself in to authorities there in late July.

State police said in a criminal complaint that the investigation began after Hindman’s daughter called Polk Borough police at about 12:30 p.m. July 25 saying she hadn’t heard from her father in several weeks.

When police arrived at Hindman’s Hillcrest Avenue residence to check on him they found the door locked and “a foul odor coming from inside,” the complaint said.

After unsuccessful attempts to call Hindman, police were let into the house by the landlord’s boyfriend, the complaint said.

The complaint notes that Hindman’s motorcycle was there but his truck was missing.

Once in the house, police found the “severely decomposed” body of a woman lying on her back on the living room floor, the complaint said.

Venango County Coroner Christina Rugh estimated the woman had been dead for several weeks, the complaint said.

The Venango County District Attorney’s office asked Franklin state police to handle the case, according to the complaint.

State police have said they believe the body is that of Salina Chilson, of Parker, who has been missing since July 3, the complaint said.

Rugh told the newspaper at that time she couldn’t confirm the identity of the dead woman until she receives results of DNA testing from the state police crime lab as well as a report from forensic experts. She said Tuesday she is still waiting for those DNA results and it could take another month.

When state police searched the house they collected “multiple items of evidentiary value,” the complaint said.

Several drops of blood were found on the floor between the living room and the kitchen, and a human tooth was found near the drop of blood farthest from the victim, the complaint said. Two more human teeth were found on the floor in the living room near the coffee table at the woman’s feet, according to the complaint.

The complaint notes that the woman was found grasping a pistol in her left hand. The pistol, a Raven .25 automatic, was loaded and on a safe, according to the complaint.

The complaint further noted that after interviewing “Chilson’s associates” it was determined Chilson was right-handed.

The woman was wearing a necklace that looked like the one Chilson was wearing when she was reported missing, and Chilson’s purse and drivers license was found at the scene, according to the complaint.

The complaint said Hindman hadn’t been seen “at or near his house in several weeks”, and several weeks of mail were also found in Hindman’s mailbox.

During an autopsy performed July 27 in Pittsburgh, fragments of a bullet were located but the fragments didn’t appear to match the size of a .25 automatic such as the one found in the woman’s hand, the complaint said. The fragments appeared much larger, according to the complaint.

The lab report from state police in Erie said the .25 automatic pistol found in the woman’s hand was functional and that the bullet fragment found during the autopsy was a .44 caliber, the complaint said.

It was noted during the autopsy that the woman’s lower jaw was broken in three places and she was missing teeth, according to the complaint.

The woman was found to have a tattoo that appeared to match the “out to lunch” tattoo Chilson was seen to have in pictures on her Facebook page, the complaint said.

On Aug. 16, police received preliminary findings from Dr. Dennis Dirkmaat, a forensic anthropologist at Mercyhurst University who had examined the body at the request of state police and the coroner, the complaint said. Dirkmaat said the woman was shot in the face with a larger caliber bullet, the complaint said.

Police said that while looking through Hindman’s text messages on Aug. 12, they saw that there were several messages sent between Hindman and Chilson from June 30 to July 3 when the last messages have them meeting at the Unimart in Emlenton the morning of July 3, the day Chilson disappeared, the complaint said.

Hindman later sent a text message saying “she tried to shoot me” along with other messages saying he was in big trouble, the complaint said.

A little after 1 p.m. on July 27, two days after the body was found, Hindman called Franklin state police and told them he was turning himself in to the Douglas County sheriff’s office in Ava, Missouri, after his girlfriend, who lived in Missouri and had “just found out about it,” convinced him that was the right thing to do, the complaint said.

Hindman also told state police during that July 27 call that “I know I’m in trouble.”

When members of the Douglas County sheriff’s office searched his girlfriend’s house, they found the Pennsylvania license plate that had been on Hindman’s pickup truck in a garbage can as well as a duffel bag and pistol case containing two Ruger .44 mag pistols police believed to be Hindman’s, the complaint said.

The next day, July 28, Hindman’s girlfriend called Franklin state police to ask about her phone that she had voluntarily given to be searched by the sheriff’s office in Missouri the day before, the complaint said.

During the phone call, she told state police that Hindman, who she has known for 30 years and who was her boyfriend, had showed up “out of the blue” the “Thursday or Friday the week after the 4th of July,” the complaint said.

She said he came with only a duffel bag and his dog, was not acting like himself and spent most of the time sleeping, according to the complaint.

She also said she got the impression he wasn’t planning to leave and that he gifted her his pickup truck, saying she needed a more reliable vehicle, the complaint said.

She became more suspicious when she received a Facebook message from Hindman’s mother saying everyone was looking for him, the complaint said.

Hindman told his girlfriend that he and a guy had been drinking when they went back to his place, the complaint said.

Hindman said he left the room and when he returned the man was pointing a gun at him so he made his way to the living room where he retrieved a gun from under a pillow on the couch, the complaint said. The man continued to point a gun at him so Hindman shot him in the face, the complaint said.

After doing some research, Hindman’s girlfriend asked him if it was Salina Chilson who Hindman was with that night, and “he would never say yes or no” but he refused to tell her the name of the man, the complaint said.

Hindman, who waived his extradition hearing in Missouri, arrived back in Venango County Tuesday afternoon after being flown from Missouri by members of a Pennsylvania State Police Aviation Unit.

In addition to the criminal homicide charge, which was filed Tuesday, Hindman is facing previously filed charges of aggravated assault, possession of an instrument of crime with intent, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person.

He has been lodged in the Venango County jail.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled Wednesday in Central Court.