Marsh Trial Testimony of Prevention and Crisis Manager for DJUSD


murder-davis-4By Genevieve Ghamian

Editor’s note: This article is based on Friday morning’s trial proceedings

Based on a single observance of Daniel, his best friend and his girlfriend, DJUSD Prevention and Crisis Manager Jen McNeil determined that the three had an “unhealthy level of closeness,” which was led by Daniel. This was determined by watching them interact while waiting to talk to counselors. They wanted to be together to provide support for each other in the counseling appointment, which McNeil found unusual.

When counseled separately, the girlfriend would ask to leave to talk to Daniel, which made McNeil believe he was the “leader.” McNeil explained that, as a leader, Daniel was the one they went to for emotional support, “not manipulation” or control.

McNeil put a stop to the group being seen together because she felt there was emotion contagion, which occurs when one person takes on the emotion of another when they are together.

McNeil had one visit with Daniel on February 1, 2013, due to Daniel having an outburst and punching someone. McNeil explained that Daniel sat in her office for 10 minutes without saying anything. Once McNeil explained her job and confidentiality, Daniel became very interested, asked questions and began to relax.

Daniel did not trust McNeil due to his experience with school counselor Monica O’Brien reporting his personal thoughts to police. Daniel had been describing feelings that had occurred in the past, not while he was talking to O’Brien, yet O’Brien breached confidentiality. Daniel explained to McNeil that he had had no intent to act upon those feelings and had been released back to class after assessments by Jordan Mulder (the school psychologist) and the police officer.

Daniel’s lack of trust manifested in Daniel’s being unable to share information about the punching incident. Daniel told McNeil he would talk to Mulder.

Ms. McNeil interpreted Daniel’s behavior as a power struggle. McNeil felt Daniel was very intelligent and had knowledge about confidentiality far superior to his peers. McNeil believed Daniel was sizing her up, in a power struggle or game. McNeil did not feel Daniel was complimenting her when he said she was very good at her job after she explained confidentiality. McNeil was not used to students asking the questions and felt Daniel was controlling the conversation. McNeil testified that his demeanor did not seem, however, like he was trying to control her. When asked if “he was just seeing if you were a therapist he could trust,” McNeil responded with a “yes.”

David Guerrero, a resource specialist and special education teacher at Davis High School, took the stand next. Guerrero taught three of Daniel’s classes, two of which were called “Education Fundamental Classes.” In these classes, emotionally disturbed students would get support, have quiet time, hang out with peers or get prepared for their other classes.

Guerrero described Daniel as an extremely intelligent, respectful and “quiet young man” who was often tardy, but not disruptively late. Daniel sat in the back left corner of the class and was “very quiet.” Daniel would reluctantly participate and was never difficult in class. Daniel used 40% of the class time on academics.

Guerrero’s job included trying to engage the students, build a connection/relationship so students could explain their needs. Guerrero stated that Daniel was sad, but would not talk to Guerrero about why. Guerrero described being told about an incident where Daniel was bullied in the locker room. Daniel’s mother (whom Guerrero described as “very involved”) informed Guerrero about the bullying and asked that Guerrero not approach Daniel about the incident. Daniel’s mother did not want to breach Daniel’s trust.

Daniel’s depression was obvious, Guerrero felt it was “always a good day or period if I (Guerrero) could make him (Daniel) laugh.”

Guerrero explained that, after Daniel’s hospitalization in December 2012, Daniel seemed to be improving. Daniel participated in group activities in geometry class, caught up in classes, and received an award for “student of the month” in May, 2013.

May of 2013 was the same month Daniel was expelled from school for carrying a knife on campus. Guerrero stated Daniel was pulled from his class that day, but Guerrero did not find out about the knife until later.

Guerrero attended the pre-expulsion meeting at the request of Daniel’s mother. Mulder, the school psychologist, asked questions from a form. Daniel said he had the knife because he felt threatened by people off campus and by students. Mulder warned Daniel that he could have harmed himself with the knife. Daniel stated he was trained in karate and how to use a knife and he would never harm anyone.

During the meeting Daniel was informed that his “best friend” Alvaro had reported Daniel for carrying the knife. Daniel responded, “I can’t believe he did that,” and appeared upset. Daniel was then told to stay away from Alvaro.

Daniel was told to leave campus after the pre-expulsion meeting, but Guerrero observed him returning and he confronted Daniel. Daniel said he was waiting for his girlfriend and headed off campus. Guerrero discovered later that Daniel did not leave campus, but confronted Alvaro.

Throughout his testimony Guerrero explained the Davis High School procedures used to enable Daniel’s academic success. This included a yearly Individualized Education Plan (IEP). A team meets yearly to set goals and include the student in as much general education as possible. Daniel’s plan included methods to help with his emotional issues, which were impairing his ability to learn.

Guerrero was not involved in Daniel’s transition meeting from Junior High but received his file (13 pages) one to two days prior to school commencing. A Learning Center Confidential Profile was developed and provided to all the staff involved with Daniel.

A quarterly meeting was held to determine Daniel’s progress toward goals.

A re-entry meeting was held after hospitalization to determine changes to the IEP and establish a “safety plan.”

March 29, 2013, was Daniel’s yearly IEP. Daniel’s improvement since January 2013 was noted several times. The IEP resulted in a 29-page document.

A “Manifestation of Termination” meeting was held to determine if Daniel’s disability, being emotionally disturbed, played a role in Daniel’s carrying the knife, and to set up a new IEP.

The pre-expulsion meeting was held to question Daniel about the knife and inform him of his expulsion.

Javier Farias, a DOJ fingerprint analyst, was then called to testify about fingerprints. Farias explained that he received 18 latent fingerprints from the crime scene. Farias obtained elimination prints from the victims. Farias was provided 31 names and subjects to compare the prints, many of which had the Northup surname.

Three of the latent fingerprints were identifiable. Two belonged to the victims, and one belonged to a Justin Gibbs. None of the fingerprints were compared to Daniel’s prints.

The witness was excused.

The last witness of the morning was Robert Wilson, a criminalist who specializes in footwear identification.

Wilson thought a footprint could be lifted from a loveseat cushion. Wilson observed bark, dust and pressed fabric on the cushion. It was below an open window with a cut screen.

Wilson’s electrostatic lift back procedure for lifting shoe impressions did not reveal a pattern that could be compared. Wilson stated that duct tape on the bottom of the shoe would make it much more difficult to see wear marks or defects in shoes.

The witness and jury were dismissed for lunch.

Judge Reed discussed Deputy Public Defender Ron Johnson’s desire for gory images that Daniel posted on the website Tumblr to be withheld from the jury. Johnson was not objecting to talking about the Tumblr images, but to displaying them. Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Cabral stated they would not be displayed this afternoon. Judge Reed determined they would meet Monday to discuss the admissibility.

Update and correction: The author was able to clarify on 9/15/14 that the evidentiary discussion on Friday, 9/12/14, was referring to images on the website “Tumblr,” not to images of  “the tumbler.”


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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14 thoughts on “Marsh Trial Testimony of Prevention and Crisis Manager for DJUSD”

  1. DavisBurns

    What they aren’t saying is the police “liked” one (or maybe two) of Chip’s grandsons for the murders. The family had that stress as well as the murders to deal with. I’m waiting for any indication the police would have considered Marsh a serious suspect if he hadn’t been turned in.

    1. Saint Micheal

      Father Marsh lied to the FBI when asked if there was a teenage male that ever visited or stayed there so the police where wrongly concentrating on the family.

      This murderer is 100 percent responsible and should have commuted suicide because he could not be cured. Each and every councilor could have done the right thing (possible stopping the murder) and choose not to. Its all so sad, just like all the other young murderers who told their councilors and family over and over that they where going to kill “people” and they all killed lots of people, but they did not mention a name.

  2. DavisBurns

    They are saying Marsh was classified as Seriously Emotionally Disturbed (SED) which gets him the highest level of services under the special education umbrella. When a child has that classification, academic learning takes a backseat to accommodating the emotional component. This is where Horizon school comes in. If the student can’t manage the regular school environment, Horizon is the next step. No idea what Horizon offers today but in the nineties it was a warehouse for failure. We don’t know if Marsh qualified for special education prior to the SED label. He could have been placed in a group home that would have given him a structured living environment, 24/7 supervision, separation from stressful living environment with mother and her girl friend and his father and separation from the two friends. He would not have access to gore and torture movies and violent video games. And, we can hope, he wouldn’t have access to illegal drugs and alcohol. Those three things, violent victimization, substance abuse and violence in the environment (video games and gore movies) are more predictive of violent behavior than a diagnosis of mental illness.

    The special education system is based on failure in the least restrictive environment. It is NOT based on what the kid needs and what would be the best placement. First you must fail and depression and low self worth are the hand maidens of failure.

    You get put in a regular classroom and pulled out for special help until you fail, then you get put in a separate classroom with perhaps some classes with normal kids until you fail and eventually, if they have an opening and the money, you might get a level 12 placement. Fail at level 12 and you get a level 14 placement which has more intensive services and access to more and better services than level 12 but perhaps exposes the kid to others who have more serious problems–like putting a person in jail, they might learn some tricks you don’t want them to learn.

    My point is, Marsh could have gotten services that would have prevented him from becoming a murderer, at least while he was in high school and maybe his problems would have improved but it will never happen as long as we use failure in the least restrictive environment as the primary criteria.

    1. Robert Canning

      DavisBurns – you say that “violent victimization, substance abuse and violence in the environment (video games and gore movies) are more predictive of violent behavior than a diagnosis of mental illness.” Do you have a source for this assertion?

    2. DavisAnon

      “…maybe his problems would have improved but it will never happen as long as we use failure in the least restrictive environment as the primary criteria”. DavisBurns, you absolutely hit the nail on the head with that statement.

      This is a bit off-topic, but why is it that our society waits and only reacts to “failure” rather than attempting to provide the best options for a situation when possible. We concern ourselves with “dropout” rates from high school, we provide people mental health services only when they’ve reached the point they are in danger of hurting themselves or others, we consider different educational options only for students who have flunked out while ignoring clear signs of underachievement and unhappiness. Just because Daniel hadn’t flunked badly enough at the right level, educational options that some perceived may have been a better fit weren’t made available to him.

      This same pattern extends to the way we deal with health care for our citizens, substance abuse, homelessness, and domestic violence. We even wait until our roads and other infrastructure are falling apart rather than setting aside funds for preventive maintenance and upkeep along the way.

      Is this human nature or is there something about our Western democratic society that we continue to ignore smoldering problems until they become so out of control, they can no longer be ignored? It seems it would be much easier and more productive to tackle issues before people feel so disenfranchised and alienated by the system that they are unwilling to trust others to help. Perhaps it wouldn’t have helped in this case, but every day I see situations where this approach would save so much time and money, let alone heartache.

      1. Matt Williams

        This is a bit off-topic, but why is it that our society waits and only reacts to “failure” rather than attempting to provide the best options for a situation when possible.

        The answer to your question is mostly how we value a dollar, or said another way, how we value risk. To be proactive you have to spend dollars now, but the reward associated with that proactive spending doesn’t come now, it comes in the future.

        The alternative to proactive spending is to reactively spend some time in the future when the “failure” happens. That is where the risk part comes in. Often the timing of the “failure” is unknown, which affects us in two ways. First, it makes the timing of the reward for the proactive spending uncertain, which causes us to ask questions like, “If I spend a dollar now, my payback is going to come when?????” If we are uncomfortable with the uncertain answer we get to that question (especially in times when here and now dollars are hard to come by, we ask ourselves, “What is the risk of a “failure” if we don’t address this now, and “table” it until a future budget cycle?” Then when we get to that next budget cycle, the weighing of dollars and risk/reward happens all over again.

        Interestingly enough, last night in one of the other threads of comments (see, the topic of risk/reward (risk aversion) came up with respect to how we value (and respond to) risk in our daily lives with respect to our children. Feel free to join that budding dialogue.

  3. TrueBlueDevil

    I still haven’t read how his Father was emotionally and mentally abusive. Was it true abuse; or was it expectations, rules, consequences, hard work, denial of negative materials (drugs, videos, booze), combined with a fragile ego?

    Divorce is tough, and if his Mom had a stressful relationship with her new girlfriend, and if the girlfriend lived in the home, that makes it twice as tough.

    Where did the money come for daily drug use? I’m naive as to what a daily marijuana habit costs, $300 a month, $500 a month? Plus the booze.

    Where was he watching these gory films? On a home computer, or an iPhone?

    Yesterday we learned there was also a diagnosis of sexual sadism. Was that because of his sexual excitement during the murders? Or was he also addicted to twisted pornography or a devotee of 50 Shades of Grey?

    FWIW, students in Asia score very low on “self esteem” but score very high on national tests.

  4. DavisBurns

    All that’s been said about the father is that he belittled Daniel verbally. We don’t know anything else except Daniel was present when his father had a heart attack, Daniel gave him CPR, saved his life, and was featured in the Enterprise for having done so. The divorce involved a custody battle. Don’t know if mom and girl friend lived together but there is testimony that the mother was present, involved with interactions with school and therapy but Daniel resented her. They mentioned she had some health problems. Kids can be very resentful when mom is sick and not the pillar of strength we think she should be. So far I think his home life wasn’t really the problem. He was the problem, he was perhaps more impacted by events that a more stable resilient kid would have been. Maybe more will come out but for now it looks like pretty ordinary family stresses.

  5. Antoinnette

    @DavisBurns….thank you for clarifying most of those questions for TrueBlueDevil.

    I put an answer after one of my articles, must have been missed? Maybe my comments aren’t showing up?

    @TrueBlue……1. Daniel only mentioned his father’s belittling, so far, and not much else from mom or dad other than he felt they were Narsacistic and addicted to prescription drugs. 2. He and friends watched these videos at each others houses on the internet mostly, from what I have heard so far. 3. Daniel smoked pot with his sister’s boyfriend in the backyard of boyfriends house, often, but never stated who bought it or who provided it? 4. Daniel tasted Rum for the first time at the hands of his mother, he tells Dr. Rokop during interview, at age 12, she gave him a sip. 5. He was diagnosed as a having sexual sadism due to his arousal to pain inflicted on others, and his statements to the Dr.Rokop about being aroused during the murders, also his sadistic experiements with girlfriend during intimacy.

    I think I covered it? The things positive we heard were that his parents were trying to get him help, inquiring with doctors, counselors, for the more part.

    Daniel expressed feeling angry about his mom’s situation but also upset about his dad’s unkind words but never spoke of physical or sexual abuse, all we know so far.

    But in reading other’s testimony, there were quite a few contradictions with not only Daniel’s illness, care, and demeanors, thoughts and behaviors at times. It appears that even the parents at certain time frames did not agree, one saying he was fine, the other reaching out for help. Although, both parents realized Daniel was obviously becoming out of hand.

    I believe a time-line of events, testimonial facts, disputed, undisputed and any other history all put into an article would be beneficial. But probably best to do one once trial is complete.

    Hope this was helpful…

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      Thank you very much. This is all very sad, and it looks like his parents were trying to seek help as best possible. I’m sure the daily marijuana use didn’t help, and combined with the prescribed drugs, booze, youth, immaturity, hormones, taunts at school divorce, etc., became overwhelming to him.

      It does seem like his “higher brain functions” weren’t functioning very well, the thought that you could kill 2 people, brag to your friends, and then think you can get away shows a lack of clarity or perspective. And the lack of compassion and guilt.

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