Speaking from the witness stand Tuesday in a Yolo courtroom, Daniel Marsh testified that he wanted to be a serial killer and for days after murdering an elderly Davis couple, dreamed about their slaughter.
“I wanted to be one,” Marsh said. “I admired them for killing people.”
Marsh said though he once planned to kill others, he is now “horrified” at the person he was.
Marsh, 21, took the stand this week for a second and final day at his transfer hearing in Yolo Superior Court in Woodland to determine whether his 52-year-to-life prison term in the April 2013 mutilation murders of Claudia Maupin and Oliver Northup will stand or whether he will be retried as a minor – a decision that would release Marsh from custody at age 25.
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The appellate court decision to return Marsh to Yolo County stems from Proposition 57, the ballot measure approved by voters in 2016 that requires that judges — not prosecutors — determine whether minors charged with certain crimes are tried in juvenile or adult court.
Marsh was convicted at 16 and sentenced at 17 before Prop. 57 went into effect, but the appeals court in its four-page opinion earlier this year ruled retroactively that the case go to to the Yolo transfer hearing to decide where Marsh’s sentence should ultimately be decided.
The appellate judges in their ruling said there is virtually no chance that Marsh will be returned to juvenile custody, but were bound by Prop. 57 to grant the hearing.
The hearing before Yolo Superior Court Judge Samuel McAdam resumes Friday.
Marsh, dressed in a blue dress shirt and striped tie, responded in clipped responses, often only one or two words of confirmation, from the stand as Yolo County deputy prosecutor Amanda Zambor laid out his disturbing mental path to the killings in her cross-examination.
Marsh first thought of killing at age 11, she said. He imagined slitting his kindergarten teacher’s throat, stabbing his sister, suffocating his mother and beating his father to death.
A sexual relationship with his first girlfriend veered sharply into the sadomasochistic. He plumbed the dark depths of the Internet for “gore porn” — sexualized images and videos of mutilated and decapitated bodies.
Marsh fantasized about cannibalism “at one point,” he told Zambor in the same clipped cadence.
The images fueled fantasies that further merged sex with extreme violence in Marsh’s mind, scenarios he shared in messages with his girlfriend.
But Marsh balked when Zambor pressed him on sexual abuse he said he suffered as a child beginning at age four. The allegations are relatively new. Marsh only began to discuss the alleged abuse in prison and shut down Zambor when she pressed him on his abuser.
“I’m not going to do this with you,” he said. “I’m not going to tell you who it was. I’m not OK doing this.”
Zambor moved on, detailing again the night Marsh went through with the killings he had planned and dreamed about. He dressed in black clothes and boots, sharpened a hunting knife and set out into the dark.
Marsh tried 50 houses before finding one with an unlocked window, slicing the screen “like a doggie door,” Zambor said.
“You heard the snoring and followed it. You stood over the victims watching them sleep,” Zambor said.
“I did,” Marsh said again and again, his voice taking on an almost trance-like tone as Zambor described the horrors he inflicted inside the couple’s condominium in frame-by-frame detail. After the killings, he plotted others, carrying a baseball bat into the night on at least one occasion. He was within 10 feet of another attack, he said, before he was scared off by the sight of children at a nearby fence.
“I tried to kill more people,” Marsh said.
As his time on the stand drew to a close, defense attorney Andrea Pelochino asked another question: “Are you proud of what you did?”
“I’m horrified,” Marsh said. “I’m disgusted with myself.”