Family of Henry Marshall Want 1961 Death Ruling Changed
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ A judge ruled today that the evidence is ″clear and convincing″ that the 1961 death of a U.S. Department of Agriculture official who was shot five times was homicide, not suicide.
The verdict by state District Judge Peter Lowry in the death of Henry Marshall followed a day-long trial on a request by Marshall’s son Don to change the cause of his father’s death.
At the time of his death, Marshall was investigating Billie Sol Estes, a flamboyant West Texan who eventually was convicted of fraud over a non- existent fertilizer business.
Estes gained more attention last year when he told a Robertson County grand jury that Marshall was killed on orders from then-Vice President Lyndon Johnson. Estes testified that he and Johnson discussed a need to stop Marshall from disclosing Estes’ fraudulent business dealings and his ties with Johnson, the Austin American-Statesman has reported.
Relatives and associates of Johnson have denied Estes’ accusations and say the ties Estes claims he had to the late president were exaggerated.
Marshall’s body was found June 3, 1961, on the family farm in Robertson County, north of Bryan. He had been shot five times and also had inhaled carbon monoxide.
A 1962 grand jury ruled the death a suicide. But the grand jury that heard Estes’ testimony ruled it a homicide. It issued no indictment or comment on the claim that Johnson was involved, saying only that those involved with the slaying were dead.
In state District Court on Monday, Don Marshall and his mother, Sybil, asked that the cause listed on Henry Marshall’s death certificate be changed from ″gun shot wounds - self-inflicted″ to ″gun shot wounds - homicide.″
Marshall said he only recently learned that the listed cause of death could be changed. Assistant Attorney General Lou Bright said a judge can order such a change if there is a satisfactory showing that the information listed is wrong.
Clint Peoples, a Texas Ranger who investigated Marshall’s death, testified Monday that he believed there was no question that Marshall was murdered. ″My opinion from the investigation prior and after is that someone went out there to make it look like a suicide,″ he said.
Peoples said he believes evidence shows that Marshall had ″a terrific struggle″ with someone and received several cuts on his head. He then inhaled carbon monoxide, possibly from the exhaust of his pickup. ″After that came the finishing off part with the rifle,″ Peoples said.
The shots came from a single-shot, bolt-action, .22-caliber rifle. Peoples demonstrated that Marshall, who had a partially crippled right hand, would have had to reach a full arm’s length away to pull the trigger while the barrel was aimed at his abdomen. That action would have had to have been repeated five times if the suicide theory is correct.
No autopsy was done until a year after Marshall’s death. Dr. Joseph Jachimczyk, chief medical examiner of Harris County, ruled the death a ″possible homicide and possible suicide.″
Estes refused to testify before the grand jury that declared the death a suicide. But Peoples said that when he escorted Estes to federal prison in 1965 they talked of Marshall’s death. Peoples quoted Estes as saying, ″You can bet your life it wasn’t suicide. It was murder.″ He told Peoples to look ″towards Washington″ for the killer.
When Estes was released from prison late in 1983, he contacted Peoples and gave him new information about Marshall’s death. Estes said he ″wanted to get right with the Lord,″ Peoples said.
Estes identified the late Malcolm Wallace, a former U.S. Agriculture Department economist, as the trigger man. Relatives and associates of Wallace denied Estes’ accusations.