OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma man who says his aunt and uncle subjected him and his brother to years of physical and verbal abuse in Seminole County is praying the couple doesn't further appeal their first-degree murder convictions in the 2006 disappearance of his 9-year-old sibling.
T.J. Sloane said his parents were alcoholics and drugs addicts, so he and his brother, Colton Clark, were placed in foster care. But in 2004, Colton and Sloane — who was then named Homer Clark — were adopted by their father's brother and sister-in-law, Rebecca and James Rex Clark, and they went to live on the Clark's 5-acre (2-hectare) farm in Seminole, 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Oklahoma City.
Everything was fine at first.
"When we were in the foster care system, they were as nice as could be to us," Sloane, now 25, told The Associated Press last week. But the Clarks soon made the brothers' lives torture. "I think it was their plan all along," and the abuse started after they were adopted.
"They would hit us with any object they could reach and find. The verbal abuse, you can't even discuss ... we were called every name in the book," he said.
Colton disappeared in 2006 and the Clarks told Sloane to tell authorities that his brother had run away.
"I was just scared, I was pretty much brainwashed. I didn't give (investigators) much information," Sloane said.
The older sibling fled the Clarks not long after and when he was found the Clarks relinquished custody. He was eventually adopted by another family and settled in Memphis, Tennessee, changing his name from Clark to Sloane.
But he thought about his brother daily and discovered through an internet search in 2015 that his case had been reopened. Sloane reached out to Seminole County authorities to describe the abuse they suffered and his suspicions about his brother's true fate.
Sloane told investigators that Colton had been beaten in March 2006 for allegedly stealing a ring, and that he last saw his younger brother lying motionless on sofa, bruised and bloodied.
Sloane said he and his brother were very close and that he never believed Colton had run away.
"We didn't have anything but we always had each other ... it was an inseparable bond and that's how I knew right off the bat ... he wouldn't run away," he said. "We were way too close for him to get up and run away."
The Clarks were convicted in Colton's death in 2017, even though his body was never found, and they were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Sloane was the key to the conviction through his testimony during the Clarks' trial, said District Attorney Paul Smith, who prosecuted the case.
"He was crucial," in supporting investigator's suspicions of abuse of the two boys and the death of Colton, Smith said. "There was no way we're ever going to solve this case ... I was shocked it came back up" after Sloane contacted authorities in 2015.
Seminole Police Chief David Hanson, a sheriff's deputy who initially responded to the first report of Colton's disappearance, was the sheriff's investigator assigned to the then-cold case when it was reopened in 2015, leading to a news report that Sloane saw online, prompting his call to authorities.
"We did not have a case without (Sloane) ... Rex and Rebecca would have gotten away with murder of Colton," Hanson said.
Sloane downplayed his role.
"I would personally like to thank the police department, D.A., the people of Seminole supported me," said Sloane.
The couple appealed their convictions, but last Thursday, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the 69-year-old James Clark's conviction in Colton's killing, one week after rejecting the appeal of his 63-year-old wife.
Sloane said he hopes the state court ruling is the end of the legal challenges.
"He's where he needs to be, and so is she ... I'll pray that they realize they've been defeated," he said of the Clarks.
The verdicts can be appealed to a federal appeals court, according to a spokesman for state Attorney General Mike Hunter, whose office defended the convictions. Attorneys for the Clarks declined comment.
He said he still doesn't know where his brother's body is.
"I have no clue," Sloane said. "We don't know."