DENVER - Lisa Clements' mind is filled with far too many "what-if" scenarios to count. More than two weeks have passed since the murder of her husband, and she is still openly wondering what might have happened had the couple decided not to move to Colorado in early 2011.
Yet, that thought will not define the rest of her life, she insists.
"I ultimately believe that all of the bitterness, the anger and the regret that I could possibly indulge doesn't make a difference. Right?" she told 9NEWS during her first formal media interview since the high-profile attack on her husband Tom Clements.
"It doesn't bring Tom back to me," Lisa said.
Dr. Lisa Clements is the Director of the Colorado Office of Behavioral Health within the Department of Human Services. She was recently tasked with formulating the governor's plan to revamp the way the state treats its mentally ill. She returned to work this week mostly in an effort to try to instill a semblance of normalcy in what has clearly been an incredibly difficult few weeks.
"We believe we're going to have happy, successful lives with our families for the rest of our life. Until we're 90, right? So it's hard for me to think about the next 30 to 40 years without Tom," she said.
The couple moved to Colorado in January 2011 after Gov. John Hickenlooper convinced Tom Clements to head the state's prison system. Before then, neither Tom nor Lisa had lived anywhere other than Missouri. She said she harbors no ill will toward the decision to move.
"I choose not to live my life in regret," she said.
During an extensive interview, Clements agreed to talk about what she hopes will be Tom Clements' legacy but declined any opportunity to talk about the reported killer or the mistake that allowed Evan Ebel to leave prison years early.
"[Tom ] would absolutely hate it - as would I - if people know Tom as the guy who was murdered by ... an ex-con. He would hate it. That's not what his life was about," she said fighting through tears. "Tom lived his life as a spiritual person; and he truly did believe in the capacity of someone being redeemed ... He believed that every individual had that capacity."
He first visited a prison at an early age, Lisa says. "He was 11 or 12 when he first started visiting with his mother to see her brother," she said.
Those visits helped shape the next several decades of his life.
Tom and Lisa met as students in Mid-America Nazarene University and married in 1984. The two went on to have two daughters. His first job after college was as a probation and parole officer in St. Louis.
Before he came to Colorado in 2011, Tom Clements served as the Missouri Director of the Division of Adult Institutions where he helped oversee 21 adult correctional facilities and 30,000 inmates.
"Tom was the guy who believed in the human capacity to change for the good," she said.
It was the kind of philosophy that would dominate his more than 30 years working in corrections.
"Tom loved to say that 97 percent of folks in prison will be our neighbors one day," she said. "That was part of his every day belief."
Tom and Lisa didn't exactly seek out the job in Colorado, but after being convinced to look into the job by a friend, the job quickly landed square into Tom's lap. The two had spent a few vacations in Colorado, and both decided it was worth it.
"We loved Colorado. We loved the mountains. We loved hiking, and so it seemed like a good opportunity to come here," she said. "It was our great adventure."
The two quickly took a fondness to the people at Woodmen Valley Chapel in Colorado Springs and were frequent visitors. There they met an ex-convict by the name of Chuck Limbrick who had previously spent 23 years in prison for killing his mother. Lisa was so impressed with Limbrick that he became one of the main singers during Clements' memorial service.
"I think having Chuck play at Tom's service was just a way for me to acknowledge how much [Tom] believed that a human life can be changed in a very dramatic way," she said.
Tom's zest for taking the long route on hikes will be missed, she says.
"It was always just, let's go one more mile ... for him, it was the challenge of the journey," Lisa said.
That journey, she says, is not over in light of a legacy she hopes will continue cause others to think twice about the state of the nation's correctional system.
"He was an enemy to isolation, which as you know, may have ultimately resulted in his death, but he believed that people deserve and need community and people around them who believe in them," she said.