Penelope Clute dealt with intense cases, including murder, rape and serious drug dealing, in her years as district attorney.

Clute was Clinton County district attorney for 13 years before being defeated in an election by attorney Richard Cantwell in 2001.

She was soon after named Plattsburgh City Court judge by then-Mayor Daniel Stewart.

She said that once she became a judge, she began to recognize a shift in the people in the courtroom who became the most human to her.

"The only live person that becomes the human being (when you're judge) is the defendant, whereas as the prosecutor, you see the victim.

"To me, that was a big difference. I noticed the absence of victims in my role when I became judge."

Clute said the most challenging case she faced was in 1994, when a local mother, Susan Anderson, was kidnapped, raped and murdered by stranger Scott Geddes, who had recently been released from prison, as she was leaving her part-time job at Pappy Jack's bar in Plattsburgh.

"It was very difficult, and I felt very responsible to do absolutely the best," Clute said.

"That kind of crime we don't really have very much (of) ... It's one of those things that you see on TV or in a movie but doesn't really happen (here)."

The Geddes trial lasted two months, a time Clute called "excruciating."

But even through difficult times like that, she said, the connection to victims was a hallmark of being prosecutor.

"That's hard; it's also very motivating … I like being the advocate for somebody. That, I think, brought out the best in me."

She would fill the little spare work time those years with program enhancements that would boost her morale.

"That can get you down. It really can … and dealing with victims a lot is sometimes hard and very disheartening. My way of helping myself deal with that, I think, was to add other kinds of things."

Middle-school mock trials were some of her favorites, as were the training opportunities that she held for police, counselors and hospital personnel on criminal-justice topics.

"I worked a lot of hours as district attorney, but I found those extra things as being meaningful to me and important," Clute said.

Email Rebecca Webster at: rwebster@pressrepublican.com

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