Suzan Marshall believes somebody killed her husband five months ago, despite a police investigation and autopsy that determined Spokane Veterans Affairs surgery chief Dr. John Marshall fell into the Spokane River during a morning run and drowned.
“Anyone with common sense would say, ‘How does a runner drown?’ ” she said.
Marshall has hired Ted Pulver, a private investigator, to review the evidence. What he has uncovered has led Marshall to believe a killer abducted her husband as he took his downtown morning run, tortured him and staged his death as an “accidental” river drowning in January.
Police dispute the homicide theory, according to Spokane Police Department spokeswoman Officer Teresa Fuller. Investigators don’t know whether Marshall’s death was a suicide or an accident. But, barring new and compelling evidence, the department won’t reopen the investigation, Fuller said.
John Marshall worked as the chief of surgery at the Mann-Grandstaff Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He left the downtown YMCA at roughly 5:30 a.m. on Jan. 25 to go on a run. He took his iPod Nano and a light coat.
At 9 a.m. the next day, a man with an office in the North Coast Life Insurance Company building reported seeing a body in the river. Rescue crews found Marshall floating next to the bushes along the north bank, just downriver from the Monroe Street Bridge.
After police completed their investigation, they gave Pulver the iPod. He sent it to Josiah Roloff, president and investigator for Global CompuSearch.
Roloff’s examination determined the iPod was never submerged in the water.
“There was no indication of water damage. Period,” Roloff said.
Pulver believes at least two people with military or police training grabbed Marshall, waterboarded him, killed him and staged his body on the banks of the river in the early morning of Jan. 26. In police crime scene photos there is part of a garden hose and a rubber tire near Marshall’s body, which Pulver said could have been used to waterboard Marshall.
The posture of Marshall’s body, with his head thrown sharply backward, and blood coming from his mouth, also indicate to Pulver that somebody waterboarded Marshall.
“This wasn’t a transient and this wasn’t a mentally deranged person,” Pulver said. “The point I’m trying to make is whoever did this was trying to fool a cop.”
An autopsy report given to the family said Marshall had a broken sternum, a broken rib and many bruises on the back of his thighs, buttocks and calves. The autopsy did not find any defensive wounds. The broken sternum and rib could be consistent with a fall from a bridge, the report said. The doctor who conducted the autopsy told police that he was “confident this was not a homicide.”
Pulver and Suzan Marshall disagree with this analysis and believe the police conducted a shoddy, rushed investigation. Pulver thinks it’s possible a disgruntled former patient or patients killed Marshall. The private investigator said he thinks the FBI should take over the case.
“I’m just trying to get enough information to gift wrap it for another agency,” Pulver said.
Reliving and questioning her husband’s death has been painful for Suzan Marshall and her two children, she said.
“I feel like I’ve been skinned alive and someone is pouring acid on me,” she said.
However, she believes there are too many unanswered questions. Marshall said her training and background as an Army trauma surgeon have given her the tools and temperament to push the issue.
“I think that’s who we are as surgeons. Our training is to always look at complications and figure out how it happened,” she said. “If I didn’t have my training, I don’t know that I would have any way to question.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.