Marshall gets life, no parole

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

The jury found it was a heinous crime. The judge handed out a lengthy sentence.

Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Richard Walton Thursday sentenced Roger K. Marshall, 59, of Ironton, to a total of two life terms without parole plus 10 years for the deaths of three people in a motel fire two years ago.

The sentence came after emotional appeals from family members who asked that Walton impose the maximum sentence on Marshall and after Marshall himself again said he was innocent.

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In the early morning hours of Aug. 2, 2004, Ironton firefighters were called to the Lyle Motel to battle a blaze and discovered the remains of Lolaetta Corbin Hicks, James Reed and John Myer.

Marshall was arrested shortly thereafter. Authorities contended during the nearly two-week trial that Marshall was angry over the breakup of his relationship with Hicks and her developing romance with Myer and that is why he set the fire.

In a packed courtroom amid muffled sobs, April Corbin, who said she was a member of Lolaetta Corbin Hicks’ family, told the court that life has been hard without Lolaetta.

“She will always be missed,” Corbin said.

Mike Myer, brother of fire victim John Myer, asked Walton to remember those who had died at the hands of Marshall when he handed down his sentence.

“My brother finally gets a voice,” Myer said. “His voice was silenced by a cowardly, premeditated, cold-blooded killer.”

Myer spoke of his late brother as a family man who had helped him get his first job, as a Vietnam vet who pulled two tours of duty on the ground overseas, who raised three children and had eight grandchildren who will now never know their grandfather.

The sentence, Myer said,

“must be consecutive to give true measure” to the crimes.

In the end, Walton agreed.

“He has demonstrated by his in-court actions that he has no remorse and has taken no responsibility for his actions,” Walton said.

Walton said multiple terms will better address the nature of the crimes as well as ensure that Marshall does not have the opportunity to commit other such acts in the future.

For each of the 11 counts of aggravated arson, Walton handed down a 10-year prison sentence. For each of the three counts of aggravated murder, Walton imposed a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. The arson and murder charges for each of the three murder victims will be served consecutively to each other; the sentences for the arson charges will be served consecutively to each other; the life sentences for the deaths of Myer and Hicks will be served concurrently to each other but consecutively to the life sentence for the death of Reed.

Before he was sentenced, Marshall told the court while he was sorry that three people died in that fire, he was not the one who set the fire.

“I was called to the motel that night but I didn’t set the fire,” he said. “But what difference does that make? I’m on my way to prison for a crime I didn’t commit.”

After the sentencing, Myer said he was not sure if justice had been served and he would have preferred the death penalty but felt Walton had done the right thing under the circumstances in imposing a stiff sentence.

Knight said afterward that he will forward the case to the Ohio Public Defender’s Office so that agency can file an appeal with the Ohio Fourth District Court of Appeals. He said he believed the chances of getting the common pleas court verdict overturned were good, given that there were questions about the legality of Marshall’s consent for authorities to search his residence the morning of the fire and given the juror misconduct that took place during deliberations and after the guilty verdict was read but before the jury took up the penalty phase of the trial.

One juror was dismissed for talking about the case and a second juror was dismissed because she had been told about the other juror’s misconduct. An alternate was also released from the case since she had been absent one day.

Knight said the nature of the crimes played a great role in the guilty verdict and no doubt in the sentence imposed as well.

“I think the jury was influenced by the fact there were three deaths here and it is difficult for the jury to impose a sentence when there is such a serious crime,” Knight said.

“We felt all along the evidence was pretty overwhelming but he has never wavered in his innocence.”

As for Marshall, Knight said although he has continued to maintain he did not commit the crimes for which he has been convicted, he would rather be sentenced to death than to have to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Lawrence County Prosecutor J.B. Collier Jr. said while he would have preferred the jury to reach a decision on Marshall’s fate, he was satisfied with the outcome nonetheless.

“This man will never breathe free air again,” Collier said. “In these cases it is tough for all involved. I commend the jury for what it did and I commend Judge Walton for what he did.”

Collier said he understood that when Walton declared a mistrial in the penalty phase and sent the jurors home, 11 jurors were in leaning in favor of the death penalty and one was not, but he had not confirmed this.