WOODLAND — Teen murder suspect Daniel Marsh may have used his own mother’s hunting and fishing knife to allegedly stab an elderly couple to death last year in their South Davis condominium, testimony revealed Monday in Yolo Superior Court.
“Is that my knife? It looks like it could be,” Sheri Hosking proclaimed on the witness stand when shown a photo of a buck knife police recovered from her Lillard Drive garage while serving a search warrant there on June 17, 2013. At about the same time, her son was being questioned at the Davis police station in connection with the murders of Oliver “Chip” Northup, 87, and his wife Claudia Maupin, 76, that occurred three months before.
Earlier Monday, Hosking had recalled keeping the knife — a gift reminiscent of her outdoorsy childhood — in her nightstand drawer, but couldn’t remember when or how it had gone missing.
“They took it, I think,” Hosking said, referring to the police search. “I never monitored it.”
Although Marsh’s trial has been delayed until late August after he changed his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity earlier this month, Hosking was questioned early because she is slated to undergo surgery for a neurological condition next week that will require a lengthy recovery. Her testimony was video recorded for the upcoming trial.
Marsh, who at age 17 is being tried as an adult on two counts of murder, sat quietly next to defense attorney Ron Johnson during the daylong hearing, alternately watching his mother testify and doodling on a legal pad.
Overcome with emotion at times, Hosking spoke of her troubled 12-year marriage to her former husband, Bill Marsh, which produced two children — Daniel and his older sister Sara, born 17 months apart. She described the children as “joyful to be around,” but said she struggled to shield them from their father’s explosive temper.
“It was always like boiling pots with lids, and I was trying to keep the lids down,” Hosking said under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Amanda Zambor. “It was tense, the environment.”
By 2007, the couple had separated and would later divorce, with Hosking leaving the family home and moving around the corner to remain close to the children. Sara lived with her, while Daniel split his time between both of his parents.
It was about that time Hosking first noticed moments of anger in Daniel, who during visits would curse her with names she believes he learned from his father.
“I was shocked because it wasn’t like Daniel at all. He was always a very caring, loving person,” she said.
Hosking also discussed her family’s history of depression, which she said dates back several generations and led to her own diagnosis about 10 years ago. There were no signs of trouble with Daniel until around 2009, when his father suffered a heart attack at the wheel of his car.
As he was being worked on in a hospital emergency room, “Daniel was right there watching the whole thing. … It was as if his childhood had ended that day, he was so traumatized,” Hosking said.
Daniel, then 12, had steered the car to safety and pounded on his dad’s chest to revive him, later receiving an American Red Cross award for his lifesaving efforts. But the ensuing media attention “kept bringing it back. His childlike wonder, his innocence, was gone,” Hosking said.
There were more complications as Marsh entered his teenage years, including marijuana and alcohol use, treatment for anorexia, and the sudden death of a close family friend who had served as a mentor to the boy.
“He was very, very angry. He just shut down,” Hosking recalled. Bullied by his peers at Davis High School, Marsh began skipping school and letting his grades slip, eventually having a “blowup” that led to a psychiatric hold and a weeklong stay at a Sacramento mental-health facility in December 2012.
Upon his return home, “he vacillated between being the Daniel I knew and being an angry young man,” Hosking said, adding that she attributed the mood swings to being a “teenage male.” Chastised by doctors for being an overprotective parent, Hosking said she gave her son free rein to be with his friends, sometimes for days at a time.
Hosking said Marsh never described hearing voices or experiencing hallucinations, as he would later describe to police.
“I wish he would have if he did, but he didn’t talk to me,” she wept.
Trouble with the police surfaced in May of 2013, when Marsh was caught with a pocket knife at school. The following month, Hosking returned home from work to find her house surrounded by police cars and crime-scene tape, “and that’s how I found out” about Marsh’s arrest on suspicion of committing the April 14, 2013, double homicide.
Instead of “arrest,” however, Hosking repeatedly referred to that event as “when he was taken.”
Hosking said she visits her son in Juvenile Hall about once a week but has been instructed not to talk about the murders or Marsh’s alleged role in them. His only mention of them was on the day of his arrest, when he phoned her from the police station and “he told me he killed those people.”
“I believe he was capable of angry violence, but nothing like that,” Hosking told Zambor. “He was the young man who opened the door for the elders. … I can’t conceive of the Daniel I know being involved in any of that, no ma’am.”
— Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected] or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene