Saturday, October 23, 2004

Suspect in kids' killing asks to die

Judge rejects plea, orders evaluation; family furious

By Karen Gutierrez and Mike Rutledge
Enquirer staff writers

[IMAGE] In 2002, Marco Chapman broke into Chuck and Carolyn Marksberry's Warsaw house and killed children Chelbi and Cody Sharon (ages 7 and 6 in photo).
(The Enquirer/Sarah Conrad)
WARSAW - Courtney Sharon is 12 and terrified of being alone. She cannot sleep by herself. She is afraid of Marco Chapman.

Two years ago, police say, Chapman attacked Courtney's mother, killed Courtney's two younger siblings and left her for dead in the family's Gallatin County home.

Now Chapman wants to be executed, and Courtney's parents hope that happens.

They're furious with Boone County Circuit Judge Tony Frohlich, who Friday postponed accepting Chapman's guilty plea, ruling that he first must get a neuropsychological evaluation and therapy for 30 days at the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center.

A psychologist who testified Thursday, Dr. Stephen H. Free, had recommended that Chapman receive the treatment before being allowed to fire his lawyers, plead guilty to murder charges, waive sentencing by a jury and request that Frohlich sentence him to death.

WCPO coverage of court hearing
"The judge is talking about his constitutional rights and his point of view. After 26 months, we'd like to know about our constitutional rights," said Chuck Marksberry, Courtney's stepfather. "We feel like we've been forgotten. We feel like the kids have been forgotten.

"For our daughter, there is no other choice: She will be scared for the rest of her life."

Chapman has confessed to killing Cody Sharon, 6, and his sister, Chelbi Sharon, 7, on Aug. 23, 2002.

He also admitted to tying up and repeatedly stabbing Carolyn Marksberry. She recovered, as did Courtney, who was also stabbed but survived by playing dead. Chuck Marksberry was out of the country for job training at the time.

Sitting in court Thursday, his hands folded on the table, Chapman serenely and repeatedly told Frohlich he wished to die, restating the wishes he expressed in a letter he gave the judge Oct. 13.

Chapman's letter argued for the death penalty. Among the reasons in his letter:

• He wants "the Marksberrys to feel that justice has been served with my death, instead of a possibility of me living, when their children are dead from my hands," he wrote.

• "I only wish the judge to sentence me to death so no one can feel responsible for another's death, including mine," he wrote. "I know the judge has to impose the final sentence, but I want no one to feel morally and/or spiritually wrong, because death is a just sentence that I am seeking for my sins."

Responding to the letter, Mr. Marksberry said: "I mean, it shows that maybe he's got a conscience. But it's too late."

Commonwealth Attorney Linda Tally Smith wished the trial had moved forward.

"It's just fascinating to see how much thought he has put into this whole thing," Smith said. "But the scary aspect of it is: What happens if he changes his mind three years from now?"

Smith had hoped for a quick resolution, for the sake of the Marksberrys and the community. She said a doctor who testified in the case found that while Chapman suffered from post-traumatic syndrome, "he is clearly competent."

"What concerned the judge is that he's suffered from depression his whole life, and obviously, he's suffering from depression now," Smith said. "And the commonwealth's point about the whole thing yesterday was why wouldn't he be suffering from depression? He's in prison, with a very bleak outlook about the future, for a very good reason."

Public defender John Delaney, one of two lawyers representing Chapman, praised the ruling.

"My opinion is that Marc is not competent to make those decisions," Delaney said.

The judge also was wise to wrestle with the issue now, rather than have it resurface during appeals, Delaney said.

"The easiest thing in the world would have been for him to just go forward," Delaney said. "But believe me: It would have come back (on appeal)."

Chapman knew the family because his girlfriend and Carolyn Marksberry had been friends for years, Mr. Marksberry said. The family still does not know Chapman's motive.

"We couldn't believe it," Mr. Marksberry said of the judge's ruling. "We told our little girl, 'Maybe you won't have to go to trial. Maybe you won't have to stand in front of this man,' which made her happy."

Chapman was charged with two murder counts, two counts of first-degree assault and one count of burglary in connection with the attack. Lawyers said he also wished to avoid a trial, or a life prison term, for other reasons.

"Marc was pretty sexually abused as a child, by his father, and suffered a fair amount of physical abuse," Delaney said. He was not looking forward to that discussion during a trial.

Chapman also was concerned about how other prisoners would treat him because he harmed children, Smith said.

"An hour-and-a-half confession, a man saying, 'Yes, I want the death penalty,' and you can't grant that to him? What does it take?" Mr. Marksberry said.

The family will never have closure, but a guilty plea would have ended one chapter, he said.

"We take each day one at a time," Carolyn Marksberry said Friday. "We take the punches as they come. Today's was big."


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