Athens, Tenn., police recommended mental evaluation for man before he was killed

Athens, Tenn., police recommended mental evaluation for man before he was killed

July 10th, 2013 by Joy Lukachick Smith in Local Regional News

Robert and Melissa Marshall and their son and Melissa's daughter from a previous marriage.

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

ATHENS, Tenn. - Several hours after Theresa Daniel had sat with her son as he fiddled with his pistol and threatened to pull the trigger, an officer visited her.

Police assured Daniel on Saturday that her 34-year-old son, Robert Marshall, was safe in jail and would receive a psychological evaluation. And an Athens police incident report shows that Officer Corey Fritts wrote Marshall was "suicidal and homicidal" and needed to be evaluated.

"We dodged a bullet this time," Daniel thought to herself at the time.

But six hours later, Marshall was dead on his bedroom floor.

Authorities said Marshall was shot in the chest by his wife, Melissa, after he forced his way into the couple's home on Saturday, 10 minutes after he had been released from jail.

McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy said Melissa Marshall won't be charged because she appeared to be acting in self defense, but police still are looking into her husband's death and will turn the evidence over to the district attorney general's office.

Guy said Tuesday that officers told him Marshall was calm at the jail and didn't seem to pose a threat. The recommendation for an evaluation was not followed before Marshall was allowed to make his $1,500 bail and leave, he said.

Court records also show Melissa Marshall had filed for a protective order against her husband on Friday, saying he was threatening to kill her and in June had thrown a highchair at her and bruised her.

She was granted a temporary protective order for herself, the couple's two young boys and her daughter by another marriage, records show.

An Athens police report shows Robert Marshall had just found out about the protective order early Saturday when he threatened to kill himself, but his mother was able to convince him otherwise. He then made threats about killing his wife, a caller told police.

Then Robert Marshall left his tire shop in his truck, with his pistol inside the vehicle.

The police report doesn't say who called police to report the ranting, but officers found Robert Marshall near a Super 8 Motel and pulled him over.

His eyes were droopy and his speech slurred, the officer noted. Inside his truck they found his pistol, ammunition for a rifle, morphine and Oxycodone.

Athens police charged him with three misdemeanors: two counts of simple possession of drugs and possession of a firearm.

Now his family wants to know why police let him go after they were told he would get an evaluation, had a protective order against him and was caught with drugs in his car.

They say their son and brother needed mental help and should have been protected from himself.

"I thought he was where he couldn't hurt himself," Daniel said. "He only needed a little time to calm down."

Source: McMinn County Sheriff

Photo by WRCB-TV Channel 3 /Times Free Press.

Guy said in a prepared statement that his officers had thoroughly warned Robert Marshall that he couldn't go near his wife, home or his kids or he would be arrested again.

The couple lived with Melissa Marshall's mother.

While Melissa Marshall declined to comment, her mother said from her front porch that she is distressed. She said Robert Marshall's family is trying to portray him in a better light even though he had tried to break down the door when he came to their home off Velma Road before he was shot to death.

ROCKY RELATIONSHIP

This was the second time Robert Marshall had married Melissa.

The couple divorced in 2007, and they were allowed to share time with their son, but Melissa Marshall was the primary parent.

Daniel said her son couldn't stay away because he wanted more time with his son, so he moved back in with her after the divorce. They remarried even though Daniel tried to persuade him not to, she said.

The couple had a volatile relationship, Daniel said. The police would get called to their house and at Daniel's house in Athens.

There are no records of the Marshalls being arrested, and the McMinn County 911 center wouldn't turn over any records of police visits to the home.

The only record in the county court is of Robert Marshall accusing Melissa in 2009 of taking a silver family heirloom worth $10,000. But two weeks after he filed the report, he wrote a handwritten note saying: "I resolved this issue and no longer need Melissa to come to court."

Then Melissa Marshall got pregnant, and they had their second son. Robert Marshall's family said he stayed in the relationship to keep the family together.

"Robbie did his best because he wanted to give the kids a good family," his younger brother Joshua Daniel said.

But the sheriff's office said this was the second time Melissa Marshall had filed a protective custody order this year against her husband. She later had the first one dismissed.

The week before Robert Marshall died, his family noticed he was becoming more depressed.

Over the phone, Robert Marshall told his mom early Saturday morning he would finally end it. She told him to hold on, dressed in the dark and drove to his shop to sit by his side. After he was arrested, Daniel thought it was an answer to prayers.

"I thought God had saved him," she said.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.