By David Greenwald and Antoinnette Borbon
A sad day today to watch the media swarm around a tragic case. Behind the glass booth of the courtroom today stood a 16-year-old defendant who has been charged with the double homicide of an elderly couple.
On April 13 of this year, the couple was found stabbed to death in their South Davis home. Daniel Marsh was arrested on Monday after an investigation which, at the onset, had police baffled.
Young Daniel Marsh stood in plain clothes, watching as Commissioner Janene Beronio read the charges that followed four special circumstance enhancements.
Ron Johnson from the Public Defender’s office is representing Daniel Marsh, and Deputy District Attorney Steve Mount is representing the state.
The court is scheduled to hear the preliminary hearing in Department 2 under Judge Timothy Fall’s authority on July 2, 2013, at 10 am.
Deputy Public Defender Johnson filed a motion banning cameras in the courtroom, but Ms. Beronio denied it, at least for the time being.
Judge Fall will make the decision for the following hearings. It may difficult for this young defendant to get a fair trial with media in full force. We will wait to see how the defense feels.
Commentary: As We Sow, So Shall We Reap
I begin here quoting from Bob Dunning’s thoughts from Wednesday. He writes that, while the arrest of the murder suspect in the savage killings of Oliver “Chip” Northup and Claudia Maupin brings “a measure of relief to our town,” it raises “a whole range of troubling questions … and while murder is murder no matter the perpetrator, most of us had hoped this was one of those random, robbery-gone-wrong crimes committed by someone from out of town who simply hopped back onto the freeway after inflicting this horror, never to be seen again.”
He continues, “Still, we didn’t want to believe that someone from our town was capable of such a crime,” adding, “these incredibly brutal acts were carried out by one of our own, just 15 at the time … and he apparently has been walking among us for the last two months, presumably capable of murdering again.”
Mr. Dunning adds, “Compounding the senselessness of these murders are those images from four years ago of a 12-year-old Daniel Marsh being honored as a hometown hero by the Red Cross of Yolo County for saving his dad’s life after his father had a heart attack and passed out while driving to the hospital … seeing that seemingly innocent and heroic kid as a murderer is almost unimaginable …”
He adds, “Clearly, if he’s guilty of these crimes, something went terribly wrong in his life and in his mind, but we may never know what exactly that was or how it might have been prevented …”
I am always stunned when crimes like this occur, with just how small this town really is. Just how many people I have run into who knew the young man accused of this awful crime.
Let me start with this note – I make no presumptions here about guilt or innocence. In fact, there are reasons to believe that this young man did not commit the crime, but that will be for the court of law to assess and ultimately for a jury to determine.
What I found yesterday, as I dipped into a troubling world beneath our noses, leads me to the opposite conclusion as Bob Dunning’s, while I am sure that we would be more comfortable with the burglary gone wrong scenario. We wanted to see the burglar who rode in from out of town who stumbled upon the old couple by happenstance and killed them because he was surprised.
But maybe we needed to see this as one of our own, to sound the alarm that there is something very wrong with a segment of our youth right beneath our noses, and that we as a community have not done nearly enough to help many of them.
Mr. Dunning and others have written about the innocent looking 12-year-old who saved his father’s life less than four years ago. But if the timeline is right, within six months of that heroic deed, young Daniel Marsh either attempted to take his own life or threatened to do so.
One of his friends wrote on the Vanguard last night, “He was in fact very troubled, I knew him extremely well. He was constantly bullied, he was short, fat, and pale. He hated life…”
“Was it his families divorce, yes. Was it school, yes,” the commenter added. “He has had a traumatic childhood.”
Another commenter said that their kids know the defendant pretty well and described him as “a deeply troubled boy, and adults at his home and school knew it.”
If this young man indeed ends up being the killer, this is a failure of our system. This time it is our failure, our system, our schools that perhaps did not read the warning signs in the right way and find help for a kid who may have been ready to snap.
We have a culture of bullying and depression, and we still do not do enough to help those troubled kids when there is still a chance.
We are still, in many ways, a community in deep denial about a group of our young people who do not make it through the system unscathed. So yes, we did not want this to be one of our own, but now that we realize it might well be, we need to wake up and start dealing with real problems.
From personal experience, I know how difficult it can be to get the proper help in this community for a troubled kid. I always imagined what would happen with parents who lacked the tenacity, resourcefulness, and connections that my wife and I had in helping our nephew under our care.
Perhaps we should imagine no more. It will be interesting to see what more we learn.
One of the interesting things we have learned about Oliver Northup, one of the victims, is that he was a longtime defense attorney. In fact, he was a death penalty opponent, working to defend people charged in capital murder cases.
In addition to being active in the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis, he would also volunteer at the Public Defender’s Office after retirement.
I found the comments by his daughter to be rather telling.
She said, “I thought, ‘It’s a 16-year-old. It’s a kid. Why would a kid want to kill an 87-year-old father? My father would be the first to jump up to defend that kid.’ “
She said. “I’m sorry we’ve suffered for his poor judgment. But I’m also sorry for this young man who has ruined his life.”
Ms. Northup told the Enterprise “My dad would say, ‘At 16, they should know better, but they can’t think clearly… If this person did it, they need to make compensation, or get better if this is someone who needs mental health help.
“But I’m not into revenge, and I don’t think my father would be into revenge,” she added.
The prosecutor’s office here is naturally seeking the maximum penalty in this case, which would be life with parole. But what might be more interesting to me is that Mr. Northup likely would have fought against such a sentence during his lifetime.
If Mr. Marsh did commit these awful murders, I would hope the community would be more concerned with figuring out why, than figuring out how badly to punish him.
—David M. Greenwald reporting