Severn man released in burial case

State's attorney says he doesn't believe charges can be filed

Daughter reported missing

Father tells police he interred 4-year-old, but he didn't kill her

August 24, 1999|By Devon Spurgeon | Devon Spurgeon,SUN STAFF

The father of a 4-year-old girl whose remains were unearthed Sunday was released by Anne Arundel County police after the state's attorney declined to bring charges for burying the child in the woods near his home in Severn.

The remains of Zaira Marshall were taken to the state medical examiner's office, which hasn't ruled on the cause of death.

The child had been buried in the woods since December, her death unreported, police said.

Zaira was reported missing late last week by her mother, who told New Jersey authorities that she was concerned because her daughter had not returned home from a Christmas holiday visit to her father.

County police said they have been unable to reach the mother since she filed the missing-child report.

The body was found after a neighbor alerted police that Zaira's father, Richard "Prince" Lee Marshall Jr., 25, had told her of the burial. Early Sunday, he led homicide detectives to the spot where he buried his daughter in December, police said.

Marshall told police that he did not kill the girl -- that she had "accidentally died." An autopsy conducted yesterday showed that the girl had no obvious bone fractures.

Toxicology studies on her hair will take a few weeks, police said.

After Marshall helped police find the burial site, county detectives were told by the Anne Arundel County state's attorney's office not to bring charges.

"On the advice of the state's attorney, we had to let him go," said Lt. Jeff Kelly, the county police spokesman.

State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee said yesterday that he does not believe charges can be filed against someone for burying his child.

He added that his office is looking into the case and "waiting for the appropriate report."

Considered a risk

"That is outrageous," said Cleo Williams, who said her sister in Colorado had two other children with Marshall.

"So people can just go and bury their kids anywhere?" She said he never mentioned the girl had died.

Police said they considered Marshall a flight risk, noting that he was found by officers staying in a motel under an alias.

Two neighbors told The Sun yesterday that he had removed the New Jersey license tags from his automobile during the weekend.

"We are always concerned that a man may flee, but we want to make sure to file appropriate charges," Weathersbee said.

Marshall was a member of a group called "The Five Percenters," which believes women are "secondary but necessary," Williams said. His nickname "Prince" signifies his affiliation with the group, neighbors and relatives quoted Marshall as saying.

Names begin with `Z'

Police said Marshall had "at least six children," according to an account he gave to them.

Cleo Williams' mother, Linda Williams, who said she is the grandmother of Marshall's twin 3-year-old daughters in Colorado, said he introduced Zaira to the girls in December.

"Zaira just grabbed her sisters and gave them a kiss. They were holding each other like they had always known each other," the grandmother said.

During the visit, Zaira jumped from chair to chair.

Williams recalled that the young girl had a cold and was wearing floral pajamas.

Williams declined to give the names of her granddaughters, but she said that like Zaira, they began with the letter "Z."

She said Marshall had insisted on names beginning with "Z" for his daughters, so they "could find each other in the world."

She said she was unaware until contacted by The Sun yesterday that Zaira had died.

Other children

Police said they were trying to check on the well-being of another daughter Marshall was believed to have had with Zaira's mother in New Jersey.

Police said they did not know the identities of the other children he might have.

Pub Date: 8/24/99

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