The Trial of Marcus Lillard


On April 8, a jury in Baldwin County found the man charged with murdering a renowned UGA entomology professor not guilty on all charges.

Marianne Shockley was found dead in a hot tub on May 11, 2019. Shockley’s boyfriend of a year, Marcus Lillard, was arrested for this murder.

Around 7 P.M., Shockley and Lillard visited their friend, Dr. Clark Heindel, at Heindel’s Baldwin County residence. At approximately 11 P.M. Shockley was strangled to death.

“We know it wasn’t an intentional murder,” said Adam Lamparello, assistant professor of criminal justice. “They were on marijuana and ecstasy in a hot tub. It was a sexual encounter that went wrong.”

When the police arrived, Heindel gave them a brief statement. Then, he returned inside and took his own life with a handgun. Heindel left a note that stated he did not know what happened to Shockley, but he could not live with the guilt of being there at the time of her death.

“The first thing a police officer should do when they’re called to a crime scene is secure the scene,” said Alesa Liles, assistant professor of criminal justice. “You definitely don’t let someone go back to the scene. That was a major mistake by Baldwin County.”

Lillard called the police to report the incident two hours after she was found unconscious in the hot tub. He claims that during those two hours he was taking a walk to clear his head.

“Even if he wasn’t doing the strangulation, he didn’t call the police for 90 minutes. Even if you aren’t the person who did the killing, you can still legally be charged with that crime,” Lamparello said.

The police interviewed six of Lillard’s previous sexual partners, and most of them said that he enjoyed consensually choking them during sexual intercourse. Heindel’s sexual partners were also interviewed, and they all confirmed that Heindel had never choked them.

“We know from half of Lillard’s ex-girlfriends that he was into choking his sexual partners. However, there were other ex-girlfriends that said he never did this,” Lamparello said. “When you combine these conflicting testimonies with a witness who is dead, it leads to uncertainty, and this is a recipe for unreasonable doubt.”

Lillard’s defense team used this unreasonable doubt to their advantage. They claimed that Heindel drugged the couple, and Lillard was taking a walk in the woods while Heindel strangled Shockley.

“You have a second person that was at the scene that committed suicide. To the jury, it looks like an act of consciousness of guilt,” Liles said. “We will never know if he had a guilty conscience or not, but a good attorney will use that as evidence.”

Because the victim was in a body of water, there was not a lot of physical evidence to convict Lillard with. The jury of 12 took approximately 35 minutes to decide that Lillard was not guilty of felony murder, aggravated assault or reckless conduct.

“It wasn’t an intentional murder, and it likely happened during a sexual encounter,” Lamparello said. “There is one person dead and one person alive, so everything the jury knows is based on Lillard’s story.”

Although Lillard was acquitted, he still remains in custody. Lillard was on probation for a previous drug charge. Judge Alison T. Burelson, the judge in this case, felt as if Lillard had violated his probation at the time of the murder.

“So, I do find by the ponderance of the evidence that you violated probation in the manner alleged in the petition, and I’m going to revoke your probation for the balance of this sentence, which runs through Oct.15, 2030,” Burelson said in an article in the Morgan County Citizen.