Clayton Courtney pleads guilty to murder of Britney Cross

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Frank Schultz
May 19, 2015

JANESVILLE—Clayton J. Courtney will spend at least 39 years in prison for murdering Britney N. Cross in Janesville one year ago. He might never get out.

Courtney, 29, pleaded guilty to first-degree intentional homicide in Rock County Court on Tuesday.

Several members of Cross' family cried quietly or dabbed their eyes as Judge James Daley quizzed Courtney to confirm his guilty plea.

Defense attorney Josh Klaff said after the hearing that Courtney has accepted responsibility for his actions.

“He feels horrible about what happened,” Klaff said.

The law sets a mandatory life sentence for first-degree intentional homicide, but it allows the convict to petition for release on extended supervision after a minimum 20 years.

Klaff, and District Attorney David O'Leary presented a joint recommendation to the court Tuesday, asking that Courtney be kept from making his first petition for release until 40 years have passed.

The 40 years start May 6, 2014, apparently because Courtney has been in jail for the past year.

To be released, Courtney would have to convince a Rock County judge in 2054 that he is no longer a danger to the community, O'Leary said.

Also, Courtney would pay about $16,000 in restitution, not counting fees.

Daley ordered a pre-sentence investigation and set a sentencing hearing for Aug. 12. Two hours were set aside for the hearing.

Another part of the agreement, which Daley is not required to follow, calls for six other charges against Courtney to be dismissed but read into the court record.

Those charges arose from Courtney's alleged bloody attack on one of his roommates the night of the murder.

The charges are attempted first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree recklessly endangering safety, criminal damage to property, disorderly conduct by use of a dangerous weapon and arson, all as incidents of domestic abuse, and obstructing an officer.

Cross' body was found behind a building along the Rock River on May 4, 2014. She died of blunt force trauma to the head, a forensic pathologist determined.

Courtney and Cross had planned to meet under the Memorial Bridge along the Rock River in Janesville the evening of May 4, acquaintances told investigators. A witness later saw them arguing near the bridge and saw them walking south on Main Street and then saw Courtney alone near the building where Cross' body was found, according to the criminal complaint.

Physical evidence—including a pocket Bible belonging to Courtney—tied Courtney to the scene of Cross' death and indicated a struggle, the complaint indicates.

The night of Cross' death, Courtney showed up at the house on Pontiac Drive that he shared with Michael Clark, Jessica Moe and the couple's two children. He was high on cocaine and alcohol and appeared to be in a rage, police said.

He threatened Moe and her unborn baby, the complaint states.

Courtney attacked Clark with a knife, saying “you and I are going to die tonight,” and that he had already killed three people, according to the criminal complaint.

The comment led authorities to search for Cross and other possible victims. Ultimately, Janesville police said they believed that he had killed only Cross.

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