WOODLAND — They’re expected to call numerous witnesses in their case against alleged killer Daniel William Marsh, but Yolo County prosecutors first let the defendant speak for himself.
“I’m not gonna lie. It felt great — it was pure happiness and adrenaline rushing over me,” Marsh, then a 16-year-old Davis High School sophomore, told a Davis police detective and FBI agent as he allegedly confessed to the April 14, 2013, stabbing murders of attorney/musician Oliver “Chip” Northup and his wife Claudia Maupin, active in her church and local theater.
Deputy District Attorney Amanda Zambor played a portion of Marsh’s video-recorded police interview in Yolo Superior Court on Tuesday as part of her opening statement in the trial for Marsh, now 17, who faces two counts of first-degree murder in connection with Northup and Maupin’s deaths.
In a steady, monotone voice, Marsh described in graphic detail how he inflicted more than 60 wounds upon each of the victims, some of them delivered postmortem because “it just felt right.”
“It was the most exhilarating feeling I’ve ever felt,” Marsh told the officers.
According to Zambor, Marsh went on to proclaim that he felt “justified” in taking the couple’s lives, citing overpopulation, their ages — Northup was 87, Maupin 76 — and his belief that everyone has done something that makes them deserve to die.
“Don’t let the defendant’s youthful appearance cloud your judgment,” warned Zambor, who described Marsh as “manipulative, calculated, cunning, sophisticated, premeditative and sadistic” in her opening remarks.
Marsh, who just a few years before the murders was hailed a child hero for saving his father from a heart attack, is being tried as an adult on the murder counts, which carry the special-circumstance allegations of multiple murders, torture and lying in wait.
He has entered dual pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity, the latter of which comes into play during a sanity phase of the trial if Marsh is convicted of the murders.
Marsh’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Ronald Johnson, said his case will focus not on what happened in the victims’ South Davis condo that April night, “but why it happened.”
He told jurors they will hear from an expert witness, neurologist and psychiatrist Dr. James Merikangas, who has concluded that Marsh’s fragile mental state, combined with the side-effects of antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs, resulted in “serious and dire consequences,” the warning signs of which went unrecognized by the teen’s doctors.
Johnson said Marsh’s family first noticed signs of depression in the boy at age 11, which, despite counseling, worsened to include both suicidal and homicidal ideations. By the time he was 13 Marsh was taking Prozac, the first of several medications doctors would prescribe him over the next three years.
“Daniel was transformed from a young boy … into someone that began to hate people and withdraw completely from society,” Johnson said in his opening statement. The medications, he added, not only failed to curb but likely escalated Marsh’s recurring violent fantasies of “killing people, hurting people and hurting himself.”
And though he repeatedly disclosed these disturbing thoughts to therapists and school counselors — even undergoing an involuntary psychiatric hold just several months before the murders — “no one, not a single doctor out of at least four, made any connection and said he should get off his medications,” Johnson said.
Marsh showed no visible emotion during the hourlong opening remarks, propping his head against his clasped hands and looking downward as the attorneys spoke.
Prosecutors allege that Marsh planned carefully for the attack, dressing in black before hitting the darkened South Davis streets with a six-inch buck knife he took from his mother’s bedroom nightstand.
According to Zambor, Marsh estimated going to as many as 40 or 50 houses, “looking for an unlocked door or unlocked window” before finding the latter at 4006 Cowell Blvd., just two doors down from his father’s residence at the time. She said Marsh sliced an opening in the screen, then followed the sounds of snoring to Northup and Maupin’s bedroom — his own appearance startling him as he passed a mirror along the way.
In the bedroom, Marsh paused to watch the sleeping couple until Maupin woke up, prompting the teen to launch his assault, Zambor said in her opening statement. When his wife’s screams roused Northup, Marsh paused to incapacitate him before turning back to Maupin.
Maupin fought the attack, biting Marsh on the hand at one point, but her pleas for him to stop “fell on deaf ears,” Zambor said. Before leaving the condominium, Marsh placed a cell phone and drinking glass in the deceased couple’s wounds because, according to his police interview, “I wanted to f— with the people who investigated.”
The murders went unsolved for two months until Marsh admitted his role to both a friend and a girlfriend who, fearing for their own safety, contacted the police, Zambor said. Marsh was arrested on June 17, 2013.
In his nearly five decades as guitarist and lead singer for the Putah Creek Crawdads, Northup was never known to be a no-show.
So when he failed to appear for not one but two performances on April 14, 2013 — one of them at the Unitarian Universalist Church that he and Maupin helped establish — bandmates and family members knew something was amiss.
“It wasn’t like Chip to miss two gigs,” said Joaquin Feliciano, a fellow musician who was dating Maupin’s daughter at the time. He recalled going with her to the Cowell Boulevard condominium, where the lights were out, the car parked in the garage, and that day’s newspapers unclaimed outside the front door.
Feliciano said he noticed a rear window screen cut on three sides, and “that’s when I thought something out of the ordinary had happened.” The couple called police, who, while conducting a welfare check discovered the slain bodies of Northup and Maupin by shining a flashlight through the bedroom window.
Following the responding officers’ testimony Tuesday, the case’s lead prosecutor, Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Cabral, presented to the jury a single photo of the crime scene. As it passed through the jurors’ hands, one panelist appeared to inhale deeply, while a couple of others put their hands to their mouths.
Marsh’s trial, expected to last several weeks, resumes today in Judge David Reed’s courtroom.
— Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected] or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene