Stoic Vanhalst arraigned on murder charge in death of East Texan - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Stoic Vanhalst arraigned on murder charge in death of East Texan

Dustin Lynn Vanhalst  (Source: Rusk Co. jail) Dustin Lynn Vanhalst (Source: Rusk Co. jail)

A suspect has been arrested, accused of killing an East Texan, then leaving him in a burning house.

In Rusk County court, 33-year-old Dustin Lynn Vanhalst of Kilgore was arraigned on murder charges.

Vanhalst is suspected in the death of 56-year-old John Jay Clements.

Last Friday morning, Clements' body was found inside a burned house on County Road 291 in Rusk County.

His death was ruled a homicide Tuesday.

Seemingly emotionless in court, Vanhalst was arraigned on murder charges by Judge Joe Sorrells in Henderson.

His arrest was the result of one phone tip.

"We had received some information yesterday and started following the leads up, and it pointed to him and we were doing some surveillance on him when he started moving in Arp. The men were acquaintances at this point; we're still working on the link between the two of them. It was just basically one phone call that had the right puzzle piece that we needed," said Rusk County Sheriff Jeff Price.

What that puzzle piece is, investigators are not saying.

Vanhalst had an extensive arrest record out of Elkhart County, Indiana, and was a familiar face around John Clements.

"When I saw the pictures, I do remember that he had come to the house with my brother one day, and my dad said that he had come over there and worked a couple of days," said Dr. Jody Clements, John's brother.

Clements had a rocky past as well, and his brother thinks that played into it.

"Everybody knew Jay had his issues, that Jay had been in trouble before and one of his big deals is he liked helping others that had been in trouble. He would give them work, give them food, give them a place to stay. It wouldn't surprise me if, when we find out who did it, it would be one of those people he tried to help," Jody says.

Price says a preliminary autopsy indicated that Clements was killed.

But motive is still unknown. 

"Don't know at this point, that's one thing we're still working towards," the sheriff says.

Court documents and the arrest warrant affidavit have been sealed by the judge. According to the sheriff's office, the case remains under investigation.

Dustin Vanhalst is being held on a charge of murder with a $1 million  bond.

Sheriff's officials say he is not cooperating with the investigation.

The cause of Clements' death has not been released, and investigators are not ruling out the search for other suspects.

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