Two Murphys teens and their father are dead in an apparent murder-suicide that has both shocked and saddened residents of their gated community and the high school the youths attended.
A clean-up crew removes furniture from the Forest Meadows residence where investigators say Philip Marshall, 54, killed his son, Alex, 17, daughter, Macaila, 14, the family dog and himself. Sean Janssen/Union Democrat, copyright 2013
At Bret Harte High in Angels Camp this morning, Principal Mike Chimente led students in a somber moment of silence and the Pledge of Allegiance. He said counselors would be on hand at the school all week for grieving staff and students.
The teen victims — Alex Marshall, 17, who played varsity football for the Bullfrogs, and his sister Macaila Marshall, 14 — were widely known and popular on campus.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” said Assistant Principal Kelly Osborn.
Residents of the small, normally quiet Highway 4 golf course development were also stunned.
“I would never have guessed anything like this,” said Bob Freels, Forest Meadows’ security guard, who was turning back news reporters and TV vans at the gate Sunday. “They were a normal family as far as I know.”
The slayings were reported about 3:10 p.m. Saturday, on the 1200 block of Sandalwood Drive.
The alleged assailant was the teens’ father, Philip Marshall, 54, a commercial pilot and author, according to the Calaveras County Sheriff’s office.
The shootings are believed to have occurred between Thursday and Saturday afternoon. No neighbors heard gunshots, Freels said.
Friends of the Marshall teens became concerned when the siblings failed to meet them as planned Friday.
They went to the Marshall residence about 3 p.m. Saturday to check up and, through a window, saw Philip Marshall lying on the floor in a pool of blood, according to a sheriff’s report.
Sheriff’s deputies were called. Upon entering the home, the deputies found the bodies of Marshall and his children. The two teens were lying on the couch, said Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Chris Hewitt.
The victims and their father apparently each died of a single gunshot to the head. The weapon was a Glock semi-automatic handgun, Hewitt said.
The handgun was under the father, who was lying face up on the floor, Hewitt said.
The family dog was found dead in a bedroom.
The victim’s mother, Philip Marshall’s estranged wife, Sean Marshall, was out of the country, traveling in Turkey, at the time of the incident.
She was notified of the deaths, the Sheriff’s Office reported.
Additional details in the investigation were unavailable. A motive was unknown.
Philip Marshall appeared to be well-respected in the community. He was well known about Forest Meadows and coached his son’s Ebbetts Pass Little League team a few years ago.
“He wasn’t your typical (criminal) you deal with up here,” Hewitt said. “They are upstanding members of the community.”
Merita Callaway, who represents Murphys and Arnold on the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors, lives several doors down from the Marshalls.
She said Marshall was “very involved” in his kids’ lives.
“I think that’s why I can’t get my head around this,” she said, recalling that Philip Marshall attended an Inauguration Day viewing party at her home last month.
Callaway said she happened to be midway through a book written by Marshall called “Lakefront Airport,” described in promotional material as “a contemporary historical fiction based on actual events including his early flying experience … his relationship with the CIA, Barry Seal, Pablo Escobar and the notorious Medellin Cocaine Cartel.”
Neighbor Mike Brown also knew Marshall as a dedicated father, “accomplished writer” and decent neighbor.
He too attended the Inauguration Day event at Callaway’s.
“I saw Phil (there). I suppose that’s what I will remember for a very long time,” Brown said. “Phil was a very nice man, a good neighbor. … I know Phil was very proud of both of his children, which makes it impossible to understand.”
Brown said he also read two books by Marshall. Callaway said she knew his “False Flag 911: How Bush, Cheney and the Saudis Created the Post-9/11 World” dabbled in “conspiracy stuff” but had not read it.
In a brief biography written to accompany that work, Marshall is said to have begun a 20-year career as a commercial pilot in 1985, first flying for Eastern Airlines and later United Airlines.
“During his career, Marshall served as captain on seven different types of Boeings, including the Boeing 757 and Boeing 767, both used in the attacks on September 11, 2001,” the biography reads. “In 1992, Philip Marshall began studying America’s ‘covert government’ while researching his first book.”
“Even more astonishing is Marshall’s involvement in the Iran-Contra secret missions back in the Reagan/Bush years,” the promotional description adds. “A great read about a horrible crime — one perpetrated not by the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, but by the seediest elements of our very own government.”
A link on Macaila Marshall’s Facebook page points to her father’s 9/11 book. However, not all was black ops and government malfeasance at the Marshall home.
“When they first moved here, (Macaila) was so full of vim and vigor,” Brown said. “She would always dress in her mother’s clothing. She must have been about 9 years old … my wife and I used to just smile whenever she came over to visit.”
Callaway said Philip Marshall strolled the neighborhood often and, being raised in the New Orleans area, was a passionate fan of the Saints football team.
Despite his 5-foot-8, 140-pound frame, Alex Marshall was featured as a wide receiver and defensive back for the Bullfrogs’ varsity football team and was a productive slugger last spring for the junior varsity baseball team.
“The community’s thoughts are with Alex and Macaila’s mom, the rest of the family and friends,” Callaway said. “We do not understand and hope that time brings some peace.”