By Lloyd Billingsley
On April 14, 2013, Daniel Marsh, 15, murdered Claudia Maupin, 76, and Oliver “Chip” Northup, 87, in their Cowell Boulevard residence in south Davis. After a lengthy trial, a Yolo County jury found Marsh guilty of first degree murder and judge David Reed sentenced him to 52 years to life. Even so, two years after this horrific crime some confusion remains about Marsh’s motives.
Claudia Maupin and Chip Northup lived only steps away from the residence of Marsh’s father and the teen passed the place en route to his mother Sheri Hosking’s house on Lillard Drive. He knew that two elderly people lived in the Cowell Boulevard residence near his father, but there was no quarrel between Daniel Marsh and his victims. In the trial, nothing emerged about any feud or grievance between the parties.
Marsh knew karate and liked to mix it up, but there is no record of him challenging Chip Northup to a fight or harassing Claudia Maupin. None of the parties was a member of any gang, so no rivalry of that kind existed. Marsh smoked marijuana but the murders were not part of a drug deal gone bad. Nothing was taken from the Northup-Maupin residence, so the crime was not, as some initially suspected, part of a robbery. And there was never any question of a jilted or jealous lover exacting revenge. The dynamic was something else.
In June of 2013, Marsh told Davis detective Ariel Pineda and FBI Special Agent Chris Campion, that he “stabbed the hell out of them” but “lost count” of how many times. “I cut open their torsos,” he also said, an inserted a cell phone and drinking glass to confuse the investigators.
“I’m not gonna lie,” Marsh told Pineda and Campion. “It felt amazing” and it was “the most exhilarating, enjoyable feeling I’ve ever felt.” Marsh provided great detail about how he had committed the crime, and after he had done so told Pineda and Campion that “all the evidence you need” was in his mother’s garage.
Marsh’s attorney tried to get the confession tossed. When that failed, Marsh changed his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity. Expert witness Dr. James Merikangas testified that brain damage and side effects from drugs such as Zoloft had put Marsh in a dream-like dissociative state in which he did not know right from wrong.
The jury rejected that argument and found Marsh sane. Psychologist Deborah Schmidt found no evidence that Zoloft causes people to research serial killers, as Marsh did. He believed that there were too many people in the world and that the old were particularly useless. His crime, Schmidt testified, had been a case of “predatory violence, meticulously planned.” Marsh knew that Maupin and Northup were old and vulnerable and on April 14, 2013, they left their window open. He took that as an invitation.
Psychologist James Rokop found Marsh to be a “sexual sadist” who derived pleasure from the infliction of pain. Indeed, one of his friends testified that he “liked to torture.” The autopsy report of forensic pathologist Dr. Mark Super confirms that Marsh did torture the victims beyond what he told police and beyond what emerged in court. The jury found true the enhancement for torture, but it added no time to his sentence.
During the 1990s Princeton scholar John DiIulio warned of “superpredators,” violent young people who kill for any reason or none at all. DiIulio thought their numbers would greatly increase but, as he now concedes, it didn’t turn out that way. But as Daniel Marsh’s crime confirms, predatory violence and depravity have no existential problems.
“You almost got away with it,” Chris Campion told him, but Marsh bragged about the crime and got caught. On May 14 he turns 18 and moves to one of California’s state prisons. The convicted double murderer will be eligible for parole at the age of 42.
Lloyd Billingsley covered the Marsh trial for City Journal California and authored Exceptional Depravity: Dan Who Likes Dark and Double Murder in Davis, California.