Crime & Courts

Prosecutors won’t seek death penalty in Dollar General shootings

Sedgwick County prosecutors said Thursday that they will not seek the death penalty for a Wichita man accused of killing two people at a Wichita Dollar General store last year.

District Attorney Marc Bennett made the announcement at the arraignment of Marquis Marshall, 19, who is charged in the Nov. 30 shooting deaths of Zachary Hunt and Henry Harvey.

In a written statement released after the hearing, Bennett said: “Following a review of the facts of the case …, the applicable statutes and case law, and in consultation with the investigative law enforcement agency and the family of the victims, the state will proceed with the charge of capital murder. A notice of intent to seek a death sentence will not be filed.”

Bennett said after the hearing that he could not comment further because the case is pending.

As was the case at his preliminary hearing two weeks ago, Marshall appeared to pay little attention to Thursday’s court proceedings. Defense lawyer Ron Evans asked that a not guilty plea be entered on Marshall’s behalf. District Judge Warren Wilbert accepted the plea and said he would hear arguments on motions in the case on June 16.

Wichita police said the shootings occurred near the front of the store when Hunt, a 22-year-old employee, and Harvey, a 79-year-old customer, were shot multiple times with a .22-caliber handgun. Marshall was identified as a suspect through a fingerprint that the shooter left as he unsuccessfully tried to leave the building through an entrance door that wouldn’t open from the inside.

The state’s death penalty law defines capital murder, in part, as the intentional, premeditated killing of more than one person. After obtaining a conviction, prosecutors must show that the aggravating factors in a capital murder case outweigh any mitigating factors before a death penalty can be imposed.

The last case in which Sedgwick County prosecutors sought the death penalty involved the murder of 14-year-old Chelsea Brooks, who disappeared on June 9, 2006, after going to a skating rink with friends. Her body was found six days later in a shallow grave near Andover.

Two men, Elgin Ray Robinson Jr. and Ted Burnett, were convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life without parole after juries failed to unanimously vote for the death penalty. A third defendant, Everett Gentry, who was 17 at the time of the murder, pleaded guilty to capital murder and was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

Prosecutors said Robinson decided to have Chelsea killed to prevent her from giving birth to his baby.

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