‘Lost a family member:’ Musicians mourn beloved Kennewick bassist murdered in suspected revenge killing
KENNEWICK, Wash. — Members in the Tri-Cities community are still reeling from the devastating loss of a Kennewick man found dead inside of his home last week in what police are suspecting was a “revenge kill.”
Clayton Wick, 76, was discovered by his housekeeper on May 3 after several attempts to reach him went unsuccessful, according to court documents.
Officials with the Kennewick Police Department said it was a gruesome scene, noting “a significant amount of bloodstains, blood spatter, and bloody smears throughout both floors of the residence.”
Investigators believe Wick had been violently beaten and stabbed as multiple bloody weapons, including a wrench, knives, and a fireplace poker were found next to his body and through the house, documents said.
Christopher Calvert, the 44-year-old man accused of killing Wick, was later arrested in Skamania County on May 5 after a nationwide warrant was released.
Court documents said a friend of Calvert’s notified police that Calvert “had told him that the guy had no family, so no one will know,” as well as asking him if he knew “how hard it is to kill someone with a butter knife?”
The friend also said he had offered to help Calvert, who had worked for one of Wick’s friends but had gotten fired, to “get back at his boss by cutting his sprinklers but Chris told him that he had done better than that,” documents said.
Now, friends of Wick’s are speaking out in honor of a man they said was “gentle, funny, and the nicest guy you could ever imagine.”
Some said Wick was a man of many hats — the first being a double bassist in the Mid-Columbia Symphony (MCS). His others included serving in the nuclear U.S. Navy and being a role model and an esteemed mentor to music students.
“He just always wanted to help people. He’s just a very pleasant guy, you know, he had an easy smile and a fun laugh,” said Bill Kuhn, the vice president of the MCS.
Kuhn said he first met Wick about 30 years ago and appreciated him “for his musicianship and friendship alike.”
That’s why when he was shocked when he heard the news of Wick’s passing.
“You’re just thinking, ‘How could this happen?’ You know, why him? Of all people?” Kuhn said. “The region lost a really important person. I just think we lost a part of our future.”
He added that Wick had started playing in the MCS in 1974 — nearly 50 years ago.
“He was always very supportive of me and very encouraging, and I just really appreciate that,” Kuhn said. “I think that he’s been like that to many people over the years over the decades.”
Diana Wang, a violinist and board member with the MCS, said she was able to get the chance to play with Wick in concert for a couple of years.
“He was a very recognizable face to me. I really associated the music community and the Tri-Cities with him a lot,” Wang said. “His playing was fantastic and he always held the group together really well.”
Besides the MCS, Wick also played bass for the Walla Walla Symphony, Washington-Idaho Symphony, Leavenworth Summer Musical Theatre, Mid-Columbia Musical Theatre, and Oregon East Symphony.
The Washington Idaho Symphony is where executive director Kristin Lincoln said she met Wick about five years prior.
“He was one of those people that just kind of has this zen about them, you know, just relaxed and calm and always had a smile on his face,” Lincoln said. “You could tell he just really enjoyed playing.”
Lincoln said the loss leaves “a major hole in the symphony.”
“While yes, we can find another person to play bass that’ll be able to musically fill that missing instrument, not having his face in the orchestra… I mean, it’s like losing a family member,” Lincoln said. “I know that one of the statements that are going around that was made by the suspect was that he didn’t have any family. All of us musicians were absolutely outraged when we heard that because he has at least three orchestras that consider him family, many, many people throughout the whole state.”
Lincoln added that despite his passing, Eastern Washington musicians will continue to ensure Wick’s legacy plays on.
“We plan on leaving an empty stool and stand in the base section in the coming season to honor him,” Lincoln said.
The MCS will also share a tribute to Wick at their upcoming concert on May 21.
The Walla Walla Symphony (WWS) announced a donation on Tuesday to the MCS in honor of Wick.
A Facebook statement from Yaacov Bergman, the Music Director and Conductor for the WWS, reads:
“We, the Walla Walla Symphony family, are shocked and heartbroken about Clayton Wick’s tragic and untimely passing. Clayton was a member of the Walla Walla Symphony from the late 80s and one of the longest members of the ensemble, even serving as principal of the bass section for many year. His love of music and joy in sharing it with others was inspiring. One cannot imagine a more beloved, kind and respected colleague, whose sunny personality was a true gift to all who knew him. Clayton graced us with his infectious smile, sense of humor and optimism, and we who made beautiful music with him were graced by his friendship and presence. He will be sorely missed.”
Calvert is currently facing multiple charges and is in custody at the Benton County Jail.
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