It had been an ordinary teenager’s weekend, Daniel Marsh told investigators – video games and late night guitar, a Sunday hanging out with friends at a local Guitar Center outlet.
Yes, he’d heard about the murders of an elderly couple that same weekend on Cowell Boulevard, the whole town had; how someone had broken in and stabbed the couple, maybe beaten them to death. He told the detectives how shaken his dad had been. The killings, after all, were just doors from his father’s home.
“It freaked him out,” Marsh said, his hands clasped, his shaggy hair falling at his shoulders, sitting in the corner of a Davis Police Department interrogation room. “The people next door are dead and you’re like, ‘Whoa, that could’ve been us.’”
Jurors on Wednesday afternoon listened to the first hours of Marsh’s June 2013 interview with the Davis detective and a retired FBI profiler that would end with the arrest of the then-15-year-old Davis teen for killing Oliver Northup and Claudia Maupin.
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Marsh’s murder trial concluded its third week Wednesday in Yolo Superior Court in Woodland. Marsh, 17, faces murder charges with special circumstances in their deaths. He had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Calm and articulate, Marsh told first Davis Police Detective Ariel Pineda, then retired FBI profiler Chris Campion in hours of questioning of his struggles to fit in at school; a volatile home life with parents he detested that Campion described in the interview as a “family train wreck”; his depression and medications he took to fight it; and the hospitalizations.
Marsh also initially denied the rumors around town that he was somehow involved in the slayings that had shocked the city.
“I hadn’t heard anything about me like that,” Marsh said during the interview. “I don’t know why someone would want to spread a rumor about me like that.”
Marsh had been hailed a boy hero just years earlier by the local American Red Cross chapter for reviving his father, who had suffered a heart attack behind the wheel of the family’s car. He had been a Davis police cadet who never missed a class and studied crime scene investigation.
But he also carried demons. Prosecutors throughout the first weeks of trial have portrayed Marsh as wracked with rage, with little regard for human life. A counselor testified during the trial that the troubled teen told him he had tried suicide, considered taking others’ lives and daydreamed of torture. A state psychologist testified that Marsh was fascinated by and studied serial killers; a boy with a seething hatred who cultivated a grim worldview that “everyone was a cockroach or parasite.”
But investigators uncovered images that prosecutors said further fueled Marsh’s dark thoughts and evidence of the even darker deeds that followed.
There were text messages to a friend that described dreams of torture and killing, said Brett Buehring, a Yolo County district attorney’s investigator, on Wednesday. He scoured Marsh’s computer and cellular phone for clues into the killings. Pages of Internet search history that revealed words like “gore,” “torture” and “serial killers.”
Graphic images of beheadings and mutilation filled Marsh’s computer in the days before the brutal killings, Buehring testified. Many of the images were culled from Marsh’s Tumblr blog, introduced by an ominous disclaimer: “My blog is explicit 90 percent of the time.”
“A lot of it was a lot of beheadings, a lot of dead bodies, a lot of gore,” Buehring told a quiet courtroom. “It’s very graphic.”
A well-traveled website was Best Gore, with its footage of decapitation, disembowelment and the victims of car crashes and suicides, Buehring said.
Another investigator, Davis Police Detective Ron Trn, was part of a team that combed Marsh’s Lillard Drive garage for hours before finding the jacket and knife that police used to link him to the killings. Jurors saw notes and drawings recovered from Marsh’s bedroom. The sketches complemented pages of handwritten notes that depicted body parts and a shadowy figure plunging a knife into the back of a head.
Before Buehring left the stand, prosecutors projected a post found on Marsh’s blog just days before Davis police discovered Northup and Maupin in their condominium: “My Head is a Very Dark Place.”
The trial continues Monday with the remainder of the prosecution’s case against Marsh.