A Baldwin County grand jury has returned a four-count murder indictment against a 41-year-old former car salesman in the strangulation death of his girlfriend, a professor at the University of Georgia, The Union-Recorder has learned.
The death, which happened in a hot tub in May 2019 at a residence on the 100 block of Watson Reynolds Road in Baldwin County, led to a third person shooting himself to death shortly after law enforcement authorities arrived to investigate the initial death of 43-year-old Dr. Marianne Clopton Shockley of Madison.
The other deceased person was identified as Sydney Clark Heindel, who had apparently invited the college professor and her boyfriend to a party at his residence. Heindel, 69, was at one time a clinical psychologist and was the owner of Good Karma: Center for Yoga and the Healing Arts in downtown Milledgeville.
Authorities later ruled Heindel’s death a suicide.
The only other person reportedly at the residence at the time of the deaths was Shockley’s boyfriend, Marcus Allen Lillard, who was indicted on Monday in connection with his girlfriend’s murder, according to court records.
Lillard was arrested a short time after the murder investigation began on a state probation violation warrant.
Grand jurors indicted Lillard Monday on charges of felony murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless conduct and concealing the death of another, records show.
Lillard, a Milledgeville resident, sold vehicles locally and in other parts of Georgia.
The case has been described as one of the most “bizarre" cases in the county’s history, according to Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee.
“I don’t know how to explain this to people who are not in our business, but when we first arrived at the crime scene, there was just something about it not right, and it was sort of a bizarre, different kind of case,” Massee told reporters at a press conference last spring announcing the arrest of a suspect. “We had that conversation privately and (in) our law enforcement circle.”
Authorities said they discovered the deceased professor, as well as the two men naked.
Massee said deputies and detectives never bought into the idea that Shockley had accidentally drowned.
“They determined that the scene looked a little inappropriate as far as just a pure drowning incident due to some blood at the scene and the demeanor of the people at the scene,” Massee said.
While deputies and detectives, along with agents from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Region 6 Office in Milledgeville, worked the crime scene Heindel reportedly was told by deputies to go to the front porch of the residence and to wait there to be interviewed. Heindel got up, however, and walked into his residence where he retrieved a gun and subsequently shot himself.
During a June 14, 2019, preliminary hearing presided over by Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Chief Judge William A. Prior Jr., it was revealed that during Lillard’s initial questioning he reportedly thought Shockley had died from drowning in the hot tub. Authorities learned that Lillard and Heindel performed CPR to tray and resuscitate Shockley for about 45 minutes before Heindel called 911 for help.
GBI Case Agent Michael Maybin presented evidence related to Shockley’s autopsy. Maybin testified that rib fractures, bruising and evidence of strangulation also existed to support the charges initially filed against Lillard.
The defendant’s defense attorney, Franklin Hogue, attempted to have the murder warrant dismissed against his client, contending the strangulation may have been consensual if it happened during sexual acts. The attorney argued that the death may have been an accident.
Prior, however, ruled there was enough evidence then to bound the case over to a grand jury.
Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Stephen A. Bradley has not yet indicated when the case might be tried in Baldwin County Superior Court.