City prosecutors reached a deal with murder suspect William Franklin Marshall on Monday, October 30, that said he is guilty of being an accessory, but cannot be tried as the killer, in a 2004 strangulation that occurred at a trailer park on Carlton Road. Marshall will serve only 12 months for the misdemeanor charge.
Marshall was charged with second-degree murder in the death of 18-year-old Azlee Keller Hickman. The night Hickman was killed, Marshall said he was out with friends Richard Powell and Powell’s daughter, Heather. At some point, the group returned to the trailer where Hickman and Richard Powell lived (the two had a child together), and Hickman was strangled. Marshall testified that he and Powell then drove around town to establish alibis.
Investigators gathered DNA evidence from under Hickman’s fingernails—they ruled out both Powells as suspects, but could not eliminate Marshall as a suspect. Marshall also had a scratch on his face that he couldn’t explain. Both Heather and Richard Powell were key witnesses, saying they saw Marshall attack Hick-man that night.
But, City Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Chapman strug-gled with an indecisive jury and unreliable witnesses. A mistrial was declared in March when jurors could not reach a verdict. During the proceedings last month, Powell, who is still a possible suspect, introduced new evidence during court hearings that had not come up in prosecutors’ questioning—that Marshall wielded a knife and threatened him after the murder.
Ultimately, Chapman decided that he couldn’t prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. “Our willingness to reach the plea agreement should not be read as an endorsement” of Marshall’s innocence, Chapman says.
In addition to the jail time, Marshall could pay up to $2,500. Chapman could not comment on their suspicions about Powell, but says the investigation is ongoing.