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Man gets 25 years in slaying

January 05, 2006|By PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Justin Kyle Marshall watched through tear-filled eyes as attorneys at his sentencing hearing Wednesday argued his culpability in the November 2004 beating death of Curtis Eugene Hill Sr.

After nearly two hours of attorneys' arguments, including statements from Marshall, Hill's mother and Marshall's family, Washington County Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley ordered Marshall to serve 25 years in prison for Hill's Nov. 3, 2004, death.

Marshall, 18, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Dec. 22. Although Maryland sentencing guidelines, which are discretionary for the state's judges, called for a sentence of 18 to 21 years in Marshall's case, Beachley said he would exceed the range because of the "brutality of the beating" and the "lack of empathy" expressed by Marshall.

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On Wednesday, Marshall apologized for his actions and expressed his "deepest sympathy" to Hill's family. Holding back tears, he told Beachley, "I'm not a killer. I'm not a murderer ... I'm a boy who made a mistake. My mom, my dad, we all make mistakes. It's in our nature."

Before pronouncing the sentence, Beachley told Marshall, "You're right, Mr. Marshall, people make mistakes. But people have to face the consequences of their mistakes."

Since second-degree murder, which carries a maximum 30-year sentence, is a crime of violence, Marshall must serve at least half of his 25-year sentence, Beachley said.

"There is no sentence, even 30 years, that in any way can compensate for the loss of human life," Beachley said.

Hill, 46, was beaten between 12:30 and 1 a.m. Nov. 3, 2004, and dragged beneath a tree by Russo's Rx Pharmacy on North Cannon Avenue. He was found dead about 7 a.m. by a passer-by.

Marshall's co-defendant in Hill's death, Larry Wayne Shriner, 22, is scheduled to go to trial Feb. 22.

Deputy State's Attorney Steven Kessell said Wednesday, "The death of Mr. Hill was a brutal, senseless, unprovoked and unnecessary act."

Hill's autopsy showed he had a blood alcohol content of .33, making him too drunk to present a threat "to anyone that night," Kessell said.

Marshall has tried to downplay his role in Hill's murder, saying he punched Hill, kicked him twice and that Shriner allegedly finished beating him, Kessell said.

But Hill's autopsy showed a "brutal" beating, Kessell said as he listed Hill's traumatic injuries, including multiple skull fractures, subdural hemorrhages and bruising to the brain and brain tissue.

Holding an autopsy photograph of Hill's head, Kessell described how police were able to take an imprint from the sole of a sneaker Marshall wore that morning and match it to treadmarks on Hill's face.

Marshall's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Eric Reed, countered that his office called in an expert, a retired FBI agent, who could not draw a comparison between the sneaker and the marks.

Kessell said Marshall told police he laughed at Hill, who was swaying and obviously drunk, before Hill rolled his hands into a fist and they proceeded to beat him.

He said Marshall had bragged he "dispensed justice to a man that they beat up."

Later, Kessell said, "Perhaps, in the Division of Correction, he'll understand what justice means."

Mary Franklin, Hill's mother, said, "The way he did this was just dreadful. He did not know the man he killed. He was a father of four."

Reed said Marshall understands what he did and has to live with it for the rest of his life.

He said Marshall has a problem with alcohol, compounded with alleged addictions to drugs and alcohol his parents harbored during his childhood.

"How that affected Justin Marshall doesn't take away the responsibility for what he did," Reed said. But Reed said Marshall, although he has a history of alcohol abuse, has no history of violence.

Reed contended Marshall was drunk that night, too, a factor Marshall's sisters said was the reason Marshall got into trouble in the first place.

"If Justin was sober that night, none of this would ever have happened," Jessica Marshall, 20, said.

Franklin said after the hearing that she did not believe the remorse Marshall expressed Wednesday.

Alcohol does not excuse what happened, nor does Marshall's childhood trauma, she said.

"Curtis was 10 years old when my husband died. He wasn't a violent drunk, he was just the opposite. They didn't have to knock him over. He would have given them anything they wanted," she said.

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