Father battling mental illness shot his two children, then himself

Almost two months after Philip Marshall and his two children were found dead in their Forest Meadows home, the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office released the details of its investigation, which revealed Marshall had mental illness and was on a cocktail of medications when he shot his two children and the family dog.

In early February, Marshall, 54, shot Alex, 17, and Macaila, 14, before turning the gun on himself.

After performing a thorough investigation, the Sheriff’s Office prepared a detailed release outlining the key points of its investigation into the shootings. The full release can be read in the associated related story.

Sheriff’s detectives found a combination of factors likely had great influence over Marshall in the days and months leading up to the shooting. His wife, Sean, filed for divorce in October 2012, which caused him to move back to his house in Forest Meadows from Angels Camp where he and the family shared a house; he had accumulated close to $70,000 in financial debt; he had a history of making threats and violent behavior; he purchased a 9mm pistol with ammunition on Jan. 27 of this year; a wedding ring was found sitting on top of the ammunition box; a note that read “Hi Sean!” was found in a safe near an ammunition box; the note was written on a medical marijuana recommendation card near five bags of marijuana; Marshall’s blood contained .08 mg/L hydrocodone (pain reliever/narcotic), .02 mg/L morphine (pain reliever/narcotic) and .80 mg/L hydroxyburpropion (anti-depressant); Marshall had been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and suffered periods of depression and mania, which led to his “grounding” as a pilot in September 2006; medical records suggested he suffered from drug dependency, anxiety and depression; and he was planning to schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist.

Toxicology reports were also performed on Alex and Macaila’s blood. Alex had a blood alcohol content of .03 percent, .02 mg/L morphine and .80 mg/L hydroxybupropion. Macaila had .05 percent blood alcohol and .32 mg/L of diphenhydramine (over-the-counter sleep aid). The report said nothing about how the alcohol and drugs got into the children’s systems.

In response to questions regarding why nobody in the neighborhood heard the shots fired, investigators recreated the scenario in the house

“Over a period of time the detectives fired a total of 16 rounds from inside the home while the decibel meter was positioned at various points outside the Marshall home,” the Sheriff’s Office said.

“At the conclusion of the test, the detectives interviewed residents surrounding the Marshall home to inquire whether or not they had heard the gunshots,” the Sheriff’s Office continued. “None of the residents spoken to said that they had heard the shots, nor were they aware that the experiment was taking place.”

The crime scene recreation also showed Alex and Macaila both could have been shot before either of them woke up.

“Both were covered in blankets and it appeared that they were sleeping at the time they were shot,” the Sheriff’s Office said.

“Based on interviews, evidence, and other factual information developed during this investigation there appears to be several contributing factors that led to this murder-suicide,” the Sheriff’s Office said. “Phillip Marshall had been under the care of a doctor for several years and appeared to be battling chronic pain, drug dependency, and mental health troubles. The prescription drugs that he had been prescribed seem to be very sensitive to dosages, especially when combined with other medications, which was the case with Marshall.

“A medical doctor consulted during the investigation stated that combining bupropion (anti-depressant) with hydrocodone (narcotic) can have adverse reactions in regards to mental health. Additionally, missing a dose or taking too much of one of these prescriptions could also cause adverse reactions. Research showed that the Food and Drug Administration warned that any abrupt changes in psychotropic medications (such as what Marshall was prescribed) could result in suicide, hostility, or psychosis.

“There was no evidence to support a theory that anyone else could have committed this crime, or that any other persons were present at the time of the shootings. Macaila and Alex Marshall both appeared to be sleeping at the time they were shot, indicating no signs of a struggle with a possible intruder. There was no evidence of a struggle with Phillip Marshall, and no signs of forced entry into the home. Various items of value were still present inside the home, and no evidence of any additional weapons was found. Lastly, there was no evidence that Phillip Marshall or his children were moved or repositioned after the shooting, which would indicate an altered crime scene. Based on the final findings of the investigators, evidence shows that Philip Marshall, and not an outside fourth person, shot and killed Macaila, Alex, the family dog, and then himself.”

 Contact Joel Metzger at joel@calaverasenterprise.com

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