Those close to the investigation of a man who killed his two teenage children before turning the gun on himself last week said the killer may have been suffering from bipolar disorder.
Friends said he was having trouble getting his medication “straightened out” in the months leading up to the shooting.
Former United Airlines captain, Little League Coach and author Philip Marshall, 54, killed his son Alex, 17, and daughter Macaila, 14, each with a single bullet to the head as they lay on a living room couch at his home in Forest Meadows, according to investigators with the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office. He then killed a dog belonging to his estranged wife Sean and turned the gun on himself. Sean was traveling in Turkey on business when the shootings took place.
Calaveras County Sheriff Gary Kuntz said he has devoted all the resources at his disposal to performing a thorough investigation of this incident.
Both children attended Bret Harte High School and were remembered at a candlelight vigil held on the high school’s campus Wednesday night.
Calaveras and Bret Harte high school students plan to wear white instead of their traditional school colors at the upcoming varsity basketball games starting at 6 p.m. Friday in a gesture of solidarity.
“I think it is simply amazing that our kids as young as they are have the strength to know that’s what Bret Harte needs,” said Eileen Batista, who is the mother of a sophomore at Calaveras. “They are coming together to support the kids at a rival high school. They are learning that to be rivals doesn’t mean you hate each other, you can still be friends. I think it gave them a real good sense of community. I’m so proud of our kids.”
Earlier this week, Calaveras High students put a large sign up above Alex and Macaila’s lockers that read, “Two schools, one community, one heart.”
It seems everyone is asking the same question since the Marshall family was found dead Saturday – why?
“It’s just shocking,” said Jeff Woods, who lived across the street from Marshall in Forest Meadows. “It’s hard to believe he killed his kids. I could almost understand someone taking their life, but to take your kids’ lives? You just wonder what’s going on.”
One possible explanation is mental illness in the form of bipolar disorder, which causes unusual shifts in mood, energy and activity levels, according to the National Institute of Mental Health website. These mood changes are different from normal ups and downs that everyone has experienced.
“Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance and even suicide,” the NIMH website read.
While most people develop symptoms before age 25, others may develop symptoms later in life. The disorder can be treated with medication, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives, the website states.
If not properly treated, those suffering from bipolar disorder may experience symptoms of mania. Life events can exacerbate these symptoms.
“There is also growing evidence that environment and lifestyle issues have an effect on the disorder’s severity,” according to WebMD, adding “children of bipolar parents are often surrounded by significant environmental stresses ….”
Marshall and his wife separated in 2008 and a petition for divorce was filed by Sean in September of that year, however it was dismissed without prejudice in July 2009.
Also in 2008, both Marshall and Sean were arrested. Marshall was arrested Dec. 5, 2008, after allegedly slapping Sean’s sister, Erin Chamberlain of Murphys, in the face, among other allegations. The District Attorney’s Office did not file charges after the credibility of witnesses came into question.
On Nov. 8, 2008, Sean was arrested after allegedly entering Marshall’s home and stealing a bottle of Kadian (morphine), for which she did not have a prescription. Marshall was hiding in his shower with a video camera when the crime occurred, according to the sheriff’s report. After being arrested, Sean told a deputy she had hidden the pills in a tree so she could give it to her lawyer. The case against her was dismissed after she presented a narcotics anonymous card to the court in September 2009.
Over the past six years, the couple reportedly continued to have a rocky relationship, which may have led to Sean filing for divorce again on Oct. 15, 2012. The first hearing on the most recent divorce filing was scheduled for Feb. 25 of this year.
“He was not a happy guy a lot of the time,” a close friend of Marshall said. “He had longstanding troubles with his wife. But he was a dedicated father, great baseball coach and his temperament doesn’t fit this scenario at all.”
For the most part, Marshall wasn’t that interesting, his friend said, and was even socially awkward at times.
“He was more sort of a dull, everyday guy who only came to life on a few subjects like baseball, football and his books,” he said.
Several books, two of which focused on a different explanation for the 911 attacks, were authored by Marshall.
He spent quite a bit of time over the past year attempting to overturn a ban on New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton. In August, he arranged for a small private plane over the practice fields with a banner in tow that read, “FREE PAYTON” in block lettering.
This was the first of several such flights over football facilities in New Orleans and New York City.
Marshall’s friend said he tended to obsess over causes such as this.
After performing autopsies on the Marshalls Tuesday, Calaveras County Coroner Kevin Raggio determined they were all killed by gunshot wounds to the head.
The weapon used in all the killings was a Glock 9mm, which was registered to Marshall, according to Sgt. Chris Hewitt of the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office.
While the exact time of death was initially unclear, Raggio believes he’s narrowed it down.
“My assumption, from condition of the bodies and so forth, it occurred either late Thursday night or Friday morning,” he said. “Number one, the kids didn’t make it to school Friday.”
As is standard procedure in cases like these, Raggio is having a toxicology report performed on the blood of Marshall and his two children. These tests will determine if there were any drugs present in the blood stream.
Reports from the Sheriff’s Office indicate the children were sleeping when shot, however Raggio said they were lying six feet away from each other on separate parts of a large U-shaped sectional in the living room.
Hewitt said he couldn’t comment on this, adding, “It’s part of an active investigation.”
When asked whether it was possible that Alex and Macaila were drugged, Raggio said he wouldn’t speculate at this time.
“That’s a good question,” he said. “We will be checking tox on everybody. It did appear as though they were sleeping.”
Hewitt said the toxicology report and pathologist’s report will hopefully be completed within two-to-three weeks.
Despite Marshall’s apparent mental illness, he was able to purchase at least one firearm, the Glock he used to kill his children, however he was unable to get through another screening process that is more local in nature.
In October of last year, Marshall attended an orientation for the Calaveras Youth Mentoring Program. Colleen Dolan, youth mentoring coordinator, said he submitted an application to be a mentor. However, before the extensive screening process began, Marshall withdrew his application, Dolan said.
“Often, simply the thoroughness of the process is off-putting,” Dolan said, adding some people walk away if they don’t think they will pass.
Dolan said the screening process is very thorough, so parents and educators can trust the program and the safety of children participating.
“The interaction between Marshall and the mentoring program was minimal,” Dolan said. “We didn’t even begin the screening process.”
A bereavement fund for Alex and Macaila has been established at U.S. Bank at 580 S. Main St. in Altaville. Donations can be made payable to the Alex and Macaila Marshall fund or to account number 153498417804. Funds received will be used to establish an annual scholarship at Bret Harte High School in the siblings’ memory along with gun and mental illness awareness.
A memorial service for Alex and Macaila will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Bret Harte High football stadium.