Hearing sheds light on details of Lawrence double murder, pursuit case


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Dec 03, 2023

Hearing sheds light on details of Lawrence double murder, pursuit case

A costumed man traveled to two homes in Lawrence, shot and killed two men on a ”snitch list” in the span of half an hour last summer, according to testimony in a preliminary hearing Friday. The

A costumed man traveled to two homes in Lawrence, shot and killed two men on a ”snitch list” in the span of half an hour last summer, according to testimony in a preliminary hearing Friday.

The hearing was continued after prosecutors ran out of time presenting their case against 52-year-old Rodney Ericson Marshall, of Lawrence, who is facing two counts of first-degree murder, five counts of attempted capital murder, and one count of attempted first-degree murder.

Marshall was arrested in connection with shootings on July 31, 2022, that left two men dead at separate locations in central Lawrence. Witnesses on Friday said that he later shot at five law enforcement officers during a 20-minute chase through town and onto Kansas Highway 10, where Marshall was finally arrested just east of Eudora’s Church Street exit.

Douglas County District Court Judge Amy Hanley previously ordered the probable cause affidavit supporting Marshall’s arrest to be sealed. Friday’s hearing was the first time substantial details about the shootings were shared publicly.

All arrestees and defendants in criminal cases should be presumed not guilty unless and until they are convicted.

The names of the both men who were killed, Shelby Len McCoy, 52, and William Dale O’Brien, 43, appeared on what investigators referred to as a “snitch list” — a characterization the defense disputes — that was located during a search of Marshall’s home.

According to testimony on Friday, roommates living with McCoy in the 1100 block of Tennessee Street heard three gunshots just after 1:30 a.m. One roommate said that he came out of his second-floor bedroom to see if everyone was OK, looked downstairs and saw a shadowy figure running toward the front door of the house.

Thinking the house was being robbed, the man said he chased the unknown person out the front door and saw a man in a blond wig, eye mask, and what he described as a “ninja turtle costume” standing on the street behind a blue scooter. The witness said that once he was outside, the man behind the scooter almost immediately raised the gun and shot at him.

“I swear I felt a bullet go right by my face,” the man said. “I heard what I thought was four shots.”

The witness said he dove back into the front door for protection and ran upstairs to check himself for injuries. He then walked through the house checking on roommates. He found another roommate, McCoy’s brother, walking out of McCoy’s downstairs bedroom and saying the man had been shot. The man was taken to the University of Kansas hospital in Kansas City, but he did not survive.

As roommates on Tennessee Street were attempting to help McCoy, the witness said he saw a chrome semi-automatic gun on the floor near McCoy’s feet. The man said he picked up the weapon and delivered it to another roommate upstairs because, he said, he wasn’t sure whose it was and he didn’t know if other assailants might still be in the house.

Defense attorney Cline Boone asked the witness why he had neglected to tell investigators about this gun on the night of the shooting. The man couldn’t explain why he’d forgotten about the gun until police asked about it during a later interview.

“I was in shock from having just been shot at,” the man said. “I was in fear for my life.”

Chief Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Tatum presented evidence in court showing that just after the Tennessee Street shooting, city traffic cameras caught video of a person on a scooter alleged to be Marshall headed west on Sixth Street toward O’Brien’s home in the 300 block of Northwood Lane.

O’Brien’s girlfriend of three years testified that the two were in bed but not asleep on July 31 because both were suffering from symptoms of withdrawal. The witness said both she and O’Brien were contacting friends trying to find more heroin. During those calls, O’Brien informed his girlfriend that a friend would be stopping by, so neither was alarmed when there was a knock at the door.

O’Brien went down the stairs of the townhouse to answer the door, and the witness said she heard Marshall asking, “Do you have any brown?” Brown is a term often used in reference to heroin.

The witness said the question struck her as odd since she and O’Brien usually purchased drugs from Marshall rather than the other way around. She said she didn’t hear any more words, but got out to look down the stairs because she was hearing some kind of rustling.

“I knew what had happened then because I could smell the gunsmoke,” she said. “All I could see was his feet because I was upstairs.”

She said she hid upstairs and waited to hear Marshall’s scooter start before checking on O’Brien.

“I was screaming at him to talk and he wouldn’t say anything. … He was blue and I didn’t want to touch him,” she said, getting tearful on the witness stand. ”I was in shock. He was blue and he wasn’t moving.”

In fear that Marshall would return, the witness ran out of the townhouse calling 911 and then friends who might be able to pick her up and give her a place to hide. On a recording played in court, the witness could be heard trying to tell a dispatcher what had happened.

During the call, the distraught woman seems to panic as she tells the dispatcher that she could see Marshall driving past her on his scooter. She was able to tell the dispatcher that the man’s name was Rodney, and police later helped her determine his last name by looking at Facebook.

Medics who arrived at the home on Northwood pronounced O’Brien dead at the scene.

A day prior to the shooting, the woman said, O’Brien showed her that he had been added to a Facebook messenger group chat called the “snitch list.” She said she didn’t know why, and O’Brien wasn’t a snitch, but they had determined the group was created by Marshall and his girlfriend.

Boone asked the witness if her testimony had been influenced by the fact that she had outstanding warrants and wanted the district attorney’s office to look favorably on her for her statement.

“I was scared for my life,” the woman said. “I was scared. I did have warrants, but I wasn’t scared because I had warrants.”

The woman also testified that she was able to get some heroin to take her sickness away, but she wasn’t high when she spoke to police and she said it didn’t affect her ability to remember everything from that night.

A handwritten list was found in Marshall’s home by civilian investigator Jackie Zenson after Marshall had informed law enforcement about it.

Boone pointed out that police all called the handwritten note a snitch list or hit list during testimony despite the fact that the top of the page was labeled “connect the dots.” Marshall shook his head as the phrase “snitch list” was repeated in court.

“Nowhere on the page does it say ‘hit’ or ‘list,’” Boone said.

The judge heard testimony from several law enforcement officers who were involved in bringing Marshall into custody.

Corporal Kevin Henderson testified about how police had formed a perimeter around Marshall’s duplex on Harvard Road and conducted surveillance to watch for him leaving.

“We’re not gonna ‘go chat’ with a double murder suspect,” Henderson said in response to defense attorney Matthew Cohen’s question in cross-examination.

Henderson said officers didn’t want to end up with a situation where Marshall would barricade himself in the home, and they didn’t know what he might have there. They wanted to let him get away from the home.

But what unfolded was a 20-minute chase that took police from Ninth Street and Lawrence Avenue, through city streets and onto Kansas Highway 10 at speeds from 60 to 100 mph.

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Around 6:15 a.m., Marshall and a woman did leave the home in a truck, which Lawrence police Detective Megan Bardwell said Marshall had loaded with tents and generators. Henderson and several other Lawrence police officers headed after him. A dashcam video showed the driver start to speed away from officers once Henderson turned on his lights and sirens.

Master Trooper Clark Rials Jr., with the Kansas Highway Patrol, testified about joining the pursuit. He got permission from his supervisor to take the lead in the pursuit because he believed he had training on tactical vehicle interventions that Lawrence police didn’t have.

Rials said performing a TVI by bumping the back of the suspect’s truck with the front of his Dodge Charger could have caused the truck to spin and crash in what Rials called “a very controlled maneuver” so officers could make an arrest.

Near 13th Street and Haskell Avenue, Rials pulled to the front of the pursuit and started to initiate a TVI. Dashcam video played in court shows the driver firing a gun out the driver’s side window, and Rials calls out over his radio, “Shots fired.” Rials said he swerved to avoid getting shot, and one bullet did strike his vehicle, but he swerved onto a curb and broke an axle.

Henderson, Lawrence police Officer Justin Snipes, Deputy Chase Reiling of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and other officers continued the pursuit south on Haskell, and Marshall ultimately headed eastbound on Kansas Highway 10. On the highway entrance ramp, Henderson testified, the driver fired a few more shots in his direction. Investigators later collected two bullet casings.

Henderson radioed to his fellow officers to back off the truck a bit since the driver was still firing. Eudora police Officer Jacey Jacobs, who had stopped in the median near the East 1900 Road interchange to attempt to deploy spike strips, said she saw the driver shoot at her as he drove by. She joined the pursuit after the other vehicles had passed.

EPD Officer Austin Kost ultimately deployed spike strips on the highway near the Church Street exit, disabling the escape vehicle.

Marshall was compliant once the truck was stopped — “I’m guessing because he was out of bullets,” Henderson said.

Cohen asked if Marshall might have complied if officers had gone to his home.

“Yeah, I’m not gonna take that chance,” Henderson responded.

Each of the law enforcement officers who testified was asked by prosecutors to detail whether they saw a gun or heard shots fired. Both Rials and Henderson said they had seen the flash of the muzzle, while other officers testified that they either heard the shots or learned they were being fired upon through information being relayed over radio communications. After the chase, Rials’ Dodge Charger was the only patrol vehicle found to have a bullet hole.

Each officer, however, expressed the feeling of being shot at during the pursuit. Reiling said he was minutes from going off duty when Marshall’s truck followed by four patrol vehicles in full lights and siren drove past him at Ninth and Kentucky streets. His first thought was that if he were shot he would miss the one day of the week that his free time coincided with his fiancee’s.

“I was thinking ‘I really hope I can get home today,’” Reiling said. “I was worried because there was potential that I would not.”

Henderson testified that after Marshall was taken into custody, police found only shell casings in the truck. He said he and a Lawrence police officer walked westbound down K-10 to search for the weapon Marshall allegedly fired at police. Henderson said he was surprised when the two found a multicolor spray painted automatic weapon in the median of the highway 40-50 feet west of the suspect’s truck.

LPD crime scene technician Jana Ramsey testified that as she was processing the scene at O’Brien’s home later in the day on July 31, investigators discovered a loaded, multicolor Palmetto rifle among the cars and appliances collected in the driveway of the home. Cartridges in the rifle matched casings found on the walkway leading to O’Brien’s front door, Ramsey said.

Tatum ended the day with a PowerPoint presentation outlining the timeline of events using video from city traffic cameras and surveillance footage from two security cameras in Marshall’s home.

Beginning at 1:06 a.m., approximately 30 minutes before the initial two shootings took place, the first video is shot from Marshall’s living room and shows a bicycle and scooter sitting outside the front door of the home. In the video he can be seen strapping a stuffed octopus onto the back of the scooter while wearing a winter hat with ear flaps and fur arm coverings from the elbows down.

On a video shot 20 minutes later, Marshall returns to the scooter wearing a blond shoulder-length wig, a mask covering the area around his eyes, red leggings, and the fur arm coverings. He is carrying a large yellow bag and placing a long, painted gun on the scooter.

Subsequent videos track a scooter along the path investigators say Marshall took from his home to Tennessee Street, on to Northwood, and then back to his own home.

Not long after investigators believe O’Brien was shot, the person on the scooter is seen pulling into the Hampton Inn near Sixth Street and Rockledge Road. Seconds later, multiple police cars and a firetruck can be seen traveling with lights and sirens through the intersection toward O’Brien’s home.

The PowerPoint also included dash and body camera footage from each of the law enforcement officers who pursued Marshall during the chase. Evidence of gunfire from the truck can be seen and heard in several of the videos.

The preliminary hearing took up the full day in court Friday, and it will resume on Nov. 21.

Judge Hanley appointed an attorney for the woman who was with Marshall so she can have legal advice regarding her testimony, which could incriminate her.

Hanley will hear the rest of the evidence and then determine whether there is probable cause to bind Marshall over for trial, and on which charges.

Email address:

Andrea Albright (she/her), reporter, can be reached at aalbright (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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Defense attorney Matthew Cohen (standing)Lawrence Police Corporal Kevin HendersonLawrence Police Officer Justin SnipesEudora Police Officer Jacey Jacobs Eudora Police Officer Austin KostDouglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Chase Reiling