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If You Take My Kids: The Jacque Waller Story

Jacque Sue Rawson was born in Bonne Terre, Missouri in 1971 and was raised in St. Genevieve, Missouri. She was always close with her parents and had sisters whom she loved dearly. It wasn’t until she was in her thirties however, when Jacque and her sister Cheryl would become very close. The more Cheryl learned about her sister’s marriage, the more she realized she did not care for her brother-in-law. She wasn’t the only one with concerns. On June 1st, 2011, thirty-nine-year-old Jacque Waller disappeared.

Jacque (left) married James Clay Waller, known as Clay, sometime in the 1990s. Jacque’s parents stated they never cared for Clay. He seemed arrogant and just “not compatible at all with my family” her father said (True Crime Daily, 2018). He had a stutter and was socially awkward. Clay had worked briefly at the sheriff’s department but was terminated after a year. He bounced from job to job, never able to hold down a position for very long. Jacque became a manager with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, providing for her family. The couple would try to start a family for years, eventually turning to invitro fertilization. On October 14th, 2005, Jacque gave birth to triplets: Avery, Maddox, and Addison Waller.

Jacque’s sister says Clay was not a very active parent and rarely helped Jacque care for the three babies. However, Jacque embraced motherhood and enjoyed her busy crazy life with triplets. She was an attentive and loving mother. She was, however, getting frustrated with her husband. Clay was not just a lazy parent; he was emotionally and physically abusive to Jacque. She was pulling away from him as her children grew and eventually started to talk to him about getting divorced.

In December of 2010, Jacque started keeping a journal on her work computer of the threats Clay was making to her. They included things like “… I told him I was going to file for divorce…he… said that he had a feeling one of us would not be around to watch our kids grow up” (True Crime Daily, 2018). “He said a divorce would be my death sentence” (True Crime Daily, 2018) she also wrote. She even shared that he threatened to kill her children and watch her pain. She told her sister and family she was scared for her life and the lives of her children.

In the Spring of 2011, Clay (right) lost yet another job and the couple lost their home. Jacque used this as an opportunity to finally break away from Clay. She moved in with her sister and her brother-in-law and filed for divorce. Clay moved to Jackson, Missouri. They both started seeing other people. It seemed that Jacque was finally able to separate from her abusive husband. On June 1st, 2011, she went to Jackson to meet with Clay and their divorce attorney. She called Cheryl after the meeting and said she was running to Clay’s house to pick up her son Maddox, then would be on her way home. She was never heard from again.

When Jacque failed to return home, Cheryl started calling her sister but did not get a response. She left several messages for Clay as well. Cheryl said she knew in the pit of her stomach that Clay had harmed Jacque. Clay denied knowing where Jacque was and hung up on Cheryl. Cheryl drove to Jackson and reported Jacque missing. Despite her not being gone more than a few hours, police believed that Jacque was at serious risk and began to investigate quickly.

Clay was immediately interviewed by detectives. He told authorities that Jacque came back to his house and they “took a nap together”. Their son Maddox was not with Clay but was with Clay’s girlfriend in Illinois. He said they argued, and she left walking. He said he went to get a soda and when he got home, her car was gone. He said he had no idea where his estranged wife was. The Major Case Squad is called in to investigate and quickly finds Jacque’s car on the interstate with a flat tire. Only, the rim was not bent at all, indicating that tire was punctured while stationary and the scene was staged.

Clay Waller quickly retained an attorney and refused to allow authorities to search his car, house, or Jacque’s car. They did get a search warrant quickly, though. They found blood in Clay’s car and on the back of Jacque’s car. The forensics came back, and the blood was fish blood. They found a video on Clay’s phone of him putting the blood on the cars to “test” police. He was playing games while Jacque was missing.

The search warrants found more evidence, too. Blood spots were noted in the hallway of Clay’s home and the carpet in that hallway had been removed. Eventually they found the carpet, covered in blood, rolled up in Clay’s crawl space. Forensics proved the blood was Jacque’s. Something terrible happened to Jacque in that hallway, but Clay was not going to cooperate with authorities. This was significant evidence, but the detectives still didn’t know where Jacque was. It was widely believed at this point that she was dead.

Video from surveillance cameras showed that Clay went to a toy store that evening with his girlfriend and son Maddox. In his truck was a boat and large trash bin. Later that night, another video at a car wash shows him vigorously cleaning the boat. Witnesses in Alexander County, Illinois, on the other side of the Mississippi River, said they saw a man in a boat near a sandbar called Devil’s Island. Police searched the area but found no sign of Jacque. The search continued as Clay taunted and laughed at searchers.

While police continued to investigate Clay Waller, Cheryl fought to have Jacque’s kids in her custody. Given the suspicions around Clay, the family court agreed to grant Cheryl custody of the kids. Clay got angry and posted a threatening comment online directed at Cheryl. It said, in part, that he would kill Cheryl eventually. Police arrested him at that time under federal charges related to making the death threat online. He also faced charges of theft for stealing from a previous job. Clay was off the streets as he was sentenced to five years in federal prison for the threats.

Prosecutors eventually scraped as much circumstantial evidence together as possible to charge Clay with Jacque’s murder, despite not having a body. He was charged with first degree murder and as his trial approached, his attorneys approached the prosecution to arrange a plea. He agreed to tell authorities where they could find Jacque’s remains in exchange for a twenty-year sentence. With Jacque’s family’s blessing, the prosecution made a deal with Clay Waller.

Nearly two years after she disappeared, Clay told detectives Jacque was buried under a tree on Devil’s Island, in Alexander County Illinois. Her remains were eventually recovered, and her family was able to lay her to rest. Clay confessed on camera to the crime. Clay admitted that over a year before her murder, Jacque started talking about divorce and Clay told her “You take those kids from me Jacque, I will kill you” (True Crime Daily, 2018). He said he warned her and basically it was her fault for trying to leave and take his kids. He admitted to digging the hole in Illinois to bury her in the day before that fateful meeting.

During his confession, Clay continued to falsify details. He said that on the day they met with the attorney, Jacque asked, “for one last bang” and went back to Clay’s house to have sex. Clay said that he accidently banged his head against her nose, causing her to have a bloody nose. He said Jacque got upset and threatened to file domestic violence charges against him. He said he was provoked and lost control, killing Jacque by beating and strangulation. He then buried her in Illinois, in the hole he dug the day before. Investigators believe he lured Jacque back to his house to pick up her son and that the murder was premeditated.

Clay admitted that while he was at ToysRUs with his girlfriend and son, Jacque’s body was in the trash bin in the back of his truck. He buried her after that trip to the toy store. He continued to blame Jacque for his crimes, but his plea deal only allowed him to be sentenced to twenty years. Clay Waller showed zero remorse for his actions, even when his son Maddox gave an emotional statement. “Dear Dad, this is Maddox. The son of you. You betrayed… you know what you did you killed our mom. You betrayed your kids you big fat jerk. You’re a big fat jerk, do you know that? I wish you were never my dad. You big fat jerk. I never want to see you again for my entire life. We don’t like you anymore. This is the last time you’ll hear of me. Okay? Bye.” (True Crime Daily, 2018).

However, Clay didn’t realize that when he gave his admission, he admitted to another crime. He violated a rarely imposed federal law against interstate acts of domestic violence. Because Clay dug the grave in Illinois and then went to Missouri with the intent to commit domestic violence, he committed federal crimes in addition to his murder charge in the State of Missouri. He plead guilty to those charges and was sentenced to an additional thirty-five years in federal prison that will begin once his twenty-year Missouri sentence is complete.

Clay Waller wrote a manuscript for a book entitled “If You Take My Kids, I’ll Kill You”, but his prosecution on the federal charges prohibited him from profiting from his crimes and the manuscript was used as evidence to help convict him on the additional interstate domestic battery charge. Clay Waller is currently in Missouri State custody and will be transferred to federal custody after his sentence. He is not eligible for release until 2047.

Maddox, Avery, and Addison were adopted by Jacque’s sister Cheryl and brother-in-law Bob. The kids live a relatively normal life surrounded by loving family despite everything they have been through. Cheryl keeps Jacque’s memory alive along with her children and celebrates the beautiful soul they lost on June 1st, 2011. Jacque’s story is a sobering reminder that domestic violence is never okay. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.


Federal Bureau of Prisons (2021) James Clay Waller; Retrieved at: Inmate Locator (

The Daily Journal (2005) Avery, Maddox, and Addison Waller; The Daily Journal; Retrieved at: 01 Nov 2005, 7 - The Daily Journal at

Lohr, D. (2011) Jacque Sue Waller case: husband of missing Missouri mom denies mocking searchers; HuffPost; Retrieved at: Jacque Sue Waller Case: Husband Of Missing Missouri Mom Denies Mocking Searchers | HuffPost Latest News

Waller Vs. United States (2021) James Clay Waller, II Vs. United States of America; Case No. 1:18-cv-00158-AGF; Retrieved at: WALLER v. UNITED STATES | Case No. 1:18-cv-00158... | 20210830d99|

United States of America Vs. James Clay Waller (2012) United States Court of Appeals: United States of America V. James Clay Waller; Retrieved at: 121036P.pdf (

Held, K. (2021) A Missouri man killed his wife in 2011 and helped write the incriminating book; Fox2Now; Retrieved at: Clay Waller: A wife's deadly 2011 dissapearance (

True Crime Daily (2018) Devil’s Island; Retrieved at: Devil's Island: The Missouri murder of Jacque Waller |

FindAGrave (2021) Jacque Sue Rawson Waller; Retrieved at: Jacque Sue Rawson Waller (1971-2011) - Find A Grave Memorial

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