A Yolo County jury on Thursday began deliberating the fate of Daniel William Marsh, the teenager held in the April 2013 stabbing deaths of an elderly Davis couple, after weeks of often-graphic testimony in the grisly case.
The Yolo Superior Court trial in Woodland ended much as it began. Prosecutors depicted Marsh, then 15, as a pitiless killer who savagely acted out on his violent, homicidal thoughts, selecting at random Oliver Northup, 87, and Claudia Maupin, 76, as they slept in their south Davis condominium.
Marsh, now 17, faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder in the killings. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Jurors can also find lesser charges of second-degree murder or involuntary manslaughter if they elect to convict Marsh, Yolo Superior Court Judge David Reed said. If jurors find Marsh guilty, they will proceed to the sanity phase of the trial.
Marsh’s defense attorney argued that the youth, bedeviled for years by deep depression as well as homicidal and suicidal thoughts, was whirling further and further out of control, his dark moods aggravated by doctor-prescribed antidepressants. Further, Deputy Public Defender Ronald Johnson said Marsh was in a “dissociative state” during the killings that, coupled with the antidepressants, left him unable to plan or weigh the gravity of his actions.
Johnson focused heavily on the side effects of the seratonin-blocking antidepressants that Marsh took, commonly known as SSRIs, arguing they only intensified his violent thoughts and dreams, leading to deadly consequences.
Marsh was “spiraling out of control” before the killings, Johnson told jurors in his closing argument Thursday, with “thoughts of morbidity, killing people, the violent thoughts ... these intrusive thoughts, the obsessive thoughts that were brought on by the medications.”
“I don’t want to have the thoughts I have. I don’t want to have the dreams I have. I don’t,” Johnson said Marsh told a therapist at one point.
The attacks last year shocked a Davis community where Northup was a longtime attorney and folk musician and Maupin was a pastoral associate at their church. Their bodies were discovered after Northup failed to show up for a performance with his group, the Putah Creek Crawdads.
For two months until police arrested Marsh, family members and Davis residents were left wondering who could commit such a gruesome crime in a quiet college town where murder is extremely rare.
Outside the courtroom Thursday, Victoria Hurd, Maupin’s daughter, called the defense argument “an insult to our family.”
The lead prosecutor in the case against Marsh said predatory rage, not doctors’ mistakes or the side effects of medication, led Marsh to kill Northup and Maupin.
“He went into that house and murdered Chip and Claudia as they lay in their bed,” said Michael Cabral, a Yolo County assistant chief deputy district attorney. “He was proud of it and remains proud of it. He laughed when he described what he did.”
The trial has largely focused on the mental state of Marsh, a teenager from a dysfunctional home who was beset by violent thoughts of homicide and suicide. In police interrogation tapes, Marsh told investigators how he dressed in black, carried a hunting knife and roamed the south Davis neighborhood in the predawn hours before the killings.
The prosecutor said Marsh’s ability to tamp down his anger at a former friend whom he believed stole a high school sweetheart showed he was in control of his emotions. Marsh told a therapist in the months before the killings that he did everything he could not to kill his friend, Cabral said.
“It shows he’s in control of his anger ... and it’s why predatory violence is so important in this case,” Cabral said. “Predatory violence – that’s what happened in this case. He was a predator searching the streets of Davis looking for somebody to kill.”
In his summation Thursday, Cabral said that neither doctors nor Marsh reported any side effects from the prescription drugs he took.
“There’s no evidence that these thoughts were caused by SSDIs. You won’t find aggression, violence or thoughts of morbidity, because they don’t exist,” Cabral said. “That’s not the pent-up anger of the drugs. That’s a bloodlust.”