NASHVILLE — A convicted Tennessee cop killer, housed on death row for nearly 17 years in the 2001 ambush murder of a Hamilton County deputy, has died of apparent natural causes, the state Department of Correction announced Thursday.
Officials say Marlon Duane Kiser, sentenced to death by lethal injection in 2003 for the Sept. 6, 2001, first-degree killing of Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Deputy Donald Bond, was found dead Wednesday in his Riverbend Maximum Security Institution cell. He was pronounced dead at 11:57 p.m.
In a short statement, Correction Department officials said that although Kiser's death appeared to be from natural causes, "the exact cause of his death is pending official determination by the medical examiner. There have been no COVID-19 cases in Kiser's assigned housing unit."
Police and prosecutors said 32-year-old Bond caught Kiser attempting to burn down Nunley's Produce in East Brainerd. During Kiser's 2003 trial, a county medical examiner testified Bond was shot nine times, with as many as seven bullets coming from an AK-47 rifle. Any of the shots could have killed Bond, the examiner said. Prosecutors said Kiser also shot Bond with his own Glock handgun.
But Kiser maintained his innocence during multiple post-conviction relief efforts, charging that his former roommate Michael Chattin, a key prosecution witness in the original trial, framed him for Bond's slaying in an elaborate set-up.
Bond's murder, Kiser's trial, guilty verdict and subsequent failed post-conviction relief efforts drew extensive local news coverage for years. No date had been set for his execution.
In a statement issues late Thursday evening, attorneys for two law firms in Knoxville and Chattanooga said in a statement that Kiser's death occurred while additional court proceedings continued about his innocence.
During the 2003 trial, Chattin testified that Kiser woke him up the morning after the murder and bragged about killing a cop. Chattin said Kiser showed him an assault rifle, a police weapon and a part of a bulletproof vest.
Kiser mounted multiple post-conviction efforts beginning in 2009, about a year before his originally scheduled execution. A judge granted a delay and Kiser, assisted by attorneys, amended his petition four times before it got into Hamilton County Criminal Court in 2014.
During one post-conviction petition hearing in 2014, a witness, Kim Bowman, an acquaintance of Chattin, declared from the stand that she had lied during the 2001 trial because Chattin threatened her and her children's lives.
Several witnesses testified they believed Chattin had killed Bond. Chattin had since died.
In 2015, the Times Free Press reported that in preparation for one of Kiser's post-conviction efforts, his attorneys requested that previously untested palm prints and fingerprints on Bond's flashlight and patrol car door be run through a state system.
But the prints turned out to be Kiser's, the Times Free Press reported.
The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office noted on its website that after the shooting, Kiser stole the front panel of Bond's vest and his service weapon. The post said informants gave investigators the name and address of Kiser and that officers saw him throw the deputy's gun and vest panel from his back porch before apprehending him.
The sheriff's office said Bond had worked as a Hamilton County deputy for two years.
Statement from law firm representing Marlon Duane KiserView
In their statement issued Thursday evening, attorneys for Knoxville-based Ritchie, Dillard, Davies & Johnson and Chattanoga-based Summers, Rufolo & Rogers said at the time of his death, Kiser had a habeas corpus petition pending in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga.
Among other claims, the petition raised issues about Kiser's innocence in the first-degree murder conviction. In addition, the attorneys said, a post-conviction DNA petition was pending in Hamilton County Criminal Court in Chattanooga with DNA testing ordered on of a key piece of evidence from the crime scene but not yet completed due to COVID-19 pandemic-related delays.
Contact Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.