Crime & Courts

Prosecution opens in Dollar General double-homicide trial

Marquis Marshall is accused of murdering two people in a Dollar General Store last fall.
Marquis Marshall is accused of murdering two people in a Dollar General Store last fall. The Wichita Eagle

Just 49 seconds after walking into a northeast Wichita Dollar General store, Marquis Marshall approached a cash register with his arms extended and a silver .22-caliber semi-automatic pistol clutched in his hands, prosecutors told a Sedgwick County jury on Tuesday.

Marshall fired three shots into clerk Zachary Hunt and three more into customer Henry Harvey, prosecutors said, before trying to run out of the store through a one-way glass entrance door that opens only from the outside. In the process, prosecutors said, Marshall planted his left palm firmly on the freshly cleaned door in a manner that crime scene investigator Anthony Decena said provided the “best possible scenario” for leaving usable prints.

“Does it get any better than that for a crime scene investigator looking for a fingerprint?” District Attorney Marc Bennett asked.

“It’s pretty good,” Decena replied.

As Marquis Marshall’s capital murder trial entered its second day on Tuesday, it became clear that prints Decena lifted from the glass entrance door provide the basis of the state’s case against Marshall, who is standing trial this week, accused of capital murder. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty. Marshall faces a sentence of life without parole if convicted.

“This case is about one shooter with one gun, six shots and two men dead,” Assistant District Attorney Justin Edwards told the jury in his opening statement. “It’s a plain, straightforward, simple case. (He) raises the gun and, without saying a word, fires six times into the bodies of Henry Harvey and Zachary Hunt.”

Defense lawyer Ron Evans said he would offer his opening statement after the prosecutors have finished presenting their evidence.

Police have not speculated about a motive for the shooting, but Edwards told the jury that video cameras in the store would show that the shootings were unprovoked.

Police said nine cameras were operating on Nov. 30 when Marshall entered the store at 8:01 p.m. The jury watched video from each camera on Tuesday. The cameras were motion-activated, and most of them picked up little or no activity between 7:55 and 8:13 p.m. – the time frame that was captured on files brought into court.

One of the cameras shows the shooter and victims in the moments before the shooting. It shows Harvey setting a shopping basket on the checkout counter and Hunt ringing up items on the cash register. The video then shows the shooter approach Harvey from behind with his arm extended and a gun in his hand. Although the video does not include sound, it is clear when the shots are fired because both Harvey and Hunt fall to the floor nearly simultaneously.

A second camera shows Hunt struggling to his feet and limping away from the register before collapsing. That second camera also shows the shooter placing a hand on the glass of the entrance door as he tried to leave. The shooter quickly backed up and ran out the exit door.

The video is not clear enough to make out the race or gender of the shooter.

A separate video showed a clerk at the store cleaning the glass where the prints were found at 2:20 p.m. on the day of the shooting.

The final witness of the day was Wichita police Officer Lee Froese, who told the jury that he was assigned to watch Marshall on a closed-circuit television after Marshall’s interview with detectives ended when Marshall asked about talking to a lawyer.

The camera was left running after detectives left the room, Froese said, but Marshall began talking to himself and offered several puzzling statements.

“I was thinking about a full-out confession, but I don’t know where to start,” he said at one point, Froese told the jury.

“My grandma thinks I killed two people; my mama thinks I killed two people; I’m starting to think I killed two people,” Marshall later said.

Although appellate courts have ruled that a defendant’s statements to police cannot be used in court if the defendant has asked for a lawyer, there is no precedent for admitting statements that a defendant makes to himself.

After a hearing outside the presence of the jury, District Judge Warren Wilbert ruled that Marshall’s statements to himself could be relayed to the jury.

“I swear I don’t know how my fingerprints got on that door,” Marshall said at one point, Froebe said.

“I spend rest of life in prison for something I didn’t do,” he said at another point. “I spend the rest of my life in prison, and I didn’t get to kill nobody.”

The trial resumes Wednesday.

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