Behind bars for more than a year now
Tuesday marked one full year behind bars for Marcus Lillard.
One year later, Lillard still hasn’t been arraigned, and he’s nowhere close to going to trial. He remains locked up in the Wilkinson County Jail in nearby Irwinton, where he was transferred at some point last year.
Lillard was indicted in January on one count each of felony murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless conduct and concealing a death. The District Attorney’s Office is accusing him of being responsible for the death of his girlfriend, Marianne Shockley, in the pool area of a rural home across the river on May 12, 2019.
Lillard is facing several hurdles. First, he already was on felony probation when he was arrested last May. He previously had been sentenced to 20 years on probation following a drug bust in his office at Butler Ford, where he was working at the time.
First offender probation means that a judge, in theory, could “re-set” the entire 20-year sentence and order Lillard to prison, even if he’s only found guilty of the lesser charges (reckless conduct and/or concealing a death).
To compound matters, Lillard and his previous attorney, Frank Hogue, recently agreed to part ways. Hogue is a high-powered Macon attorney, and his departure leaves Lillard without any current legal representation.
With this in mind, a GoFundMe page was started earlier this week by Abigail White, a friend of Lillard’s. According to the GoFundMe narrative, “Marcus has found a defense attorney willing to help him have a fair trial. She is only requesting filing fees, court fees, and travel fees. This will be a very long process, and Marcus is very confident in the attorney. He deserves to have his story heard. Please give as God guides your heart. I will ensure that all funds be given directly to the attorney. Marcus wishes to relay that he is thankful for each of you who have reached out to him.”
White also used Lillard’s Facebook page to offer an update on her friend.
“Marcus is thankful for each of you and your support this far,” read the post. “Over the past year, he has found a peace with God that surpasses all understanding.”
The case is one of the strangest in recent memory, not just around here, but anywhere in Georgia. A preliminary court hearing, held last June, made reference to hallucinogenic tea from South America, a hydrangea plant used for a seance, bongo drums, an accordion, as well as strangulation and other violent physical injuries.
When attempting to sort through the prosecution’s case against Lillard, it’s important to sort through the different interviews. All totaled, Lillard was interviewed by investigators on four different occasions. The first two interviews, each conducted within 24 hours of the May 12 incident, were at least somewhat consistent. In the third and fourth interviews, however, Lillard’s assertions and account of the evening began to change somewhat dramatically.
In terms of the first two interviews, Lillard relayed to investigators that he and Shockley had been dating for more than a year. That Saturday morning, according to Lillard, Shockley had texted and asked if he wanted to hang out and asked if he knew anyone with a swimming pool. Shockley drove to town, and the couple eventually ended up at the Watson Reyndolds Road home of Clark Heindel around 7 p.m. Lillard and Heindel then began playing the bongo drums and the accordion. Eventually, Lillard and Shockley disrobed and jumped in the pool, according to Lillard’s statements, while Heindel hung out closer to the porch of his house. Lillard denied having any sexual contact with Shockley that night, and he insists that “they just kissed.” During each of Lillard’s first two interviews, he asserted that he eventually decided to walk around the woods and gather firewood for roughly 15 minutes.
After returning, Lillard said that he found Shockley unconscious in the hot tub. At that point, Lillard asserts, he picked up Shockley and dropped her in the deep end of the pool in an effort to resuscitate her. In the process, Shockley sustained a head wound, asserted Lillard, adding that he then swam with Shockley to the shallow end and carried her up out of the pool. Then, according to Lillard, he and Heindel began their attempts to resusistate Shockley, although largely in a nonsensical fashion. Heindel went in the house and returned with a tea containing a potent hallucinogen called DMT, according to Lillard. The tea was poured down Shockley’s throat. Heindel also began shaking a hydrangea branch over Shockley’s body, thinking that it would help her to regain consciousness, according to Lillard’s interviews. Traditional CPR also was administered, Lillard told investigators, although neither was trained. Both men were nude at the time, according to interviews. Heindel eventually called 911 roughly two hours after Shockley was first found unconscious.
Lillard was locked up that Sunday and booked on lesser charges, as investigators continued to work the case as “a drowning.” On Monday afternoon, however, the autopsy results were returned, and the tenor of the entire investigation changed. Shockley had died as a result of manual strangulation, according to the Baldwin County Coroner’s Office. Also discovered were two fractured ribs, eye hemmorhaging, abrasions to the forehead, right cheek, lips, neck, back and legs. Also found were arm injuries and bruising below the waist “consistent with squeezing and grabbing.”
At this point, according to the GBI, Lillard began to diverge from his original story. He asserted that he was drugged by Heindel and passed out. After the third interview, Lillard requested that his attorney be present, and the dialogue with investigators shut down.
Roughly a week went by, and Lillard sent word through a jailer that he wished once again to speak to detectives. After formally putting the request in writing, investigators agreed to meet with Lillard. This time, instead of claiming that he was in the woods for roughly 15 minutes, Lillard asserted that it was actually closer to 75-90 minutes. Following the incident, Lillard did have briar marks on his legs, as well as bug bits on his legs and back, according to investigators.
Beer cans and beer bottles were scattered around the pool area, while the hallucinogenic tea later was discovered on the stove in the kitchen. No other drugs were found, although Lillardlater tested positive for cocaine and marijuana.
All Superior Court calendars and jury trials are suspended around the state of Georgia until June 12, at the very earliest.