Marcus Lillard, 41, is charged with murdering his girlfriend in a case that Georgia investigators have described as “bizarre.”
According to Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee, Lillard and friend Clark Heindel called 911 early in the morning on May 12, 2019, to report that Marianne Shockley, 43, had drowned in a hot tub. But when deputies and emergency responders arrived at the house, Massee said that something “wasn’t right” with the scene. He said they immediately doubted that Shockley had drowned based on the two men’s demeanor and the presence of blood at the scene. A preliminary autopsy report later confirmed that Shockley, a University of Georgia professor, had been strangled.
Investigators separated Lillard and Heindel at the house in order to question them. But before they could speak with Heindel, he committed suicide by shooting himself in the master bathroom.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Marcus Lillard Told Investigators He Walked Into the Woods to Gather Firewood & That He Found Marianne Shockley Passed Out in the Hot Tub When He Returned
Marcus Lillard and Marianne Shockley were visiting Clark Heindel at his home on Watson Reynolds Road in Milledgeville, Georgia, on May 11. The home has a swimming pool and a hot tub.
According to a report obtained by WMAZ-TV, Lillard told Baldwin County deputies that he walked into the woods to gather firewood. When he returned to the home, he says he found Shockley unconscious in the hot tub and Heindel had been in the pool.
Lillard stated that as he pulled Shockley out of the hot tub, he fell. He said this caused Shockley to hit her head and begin to bleed.
During a press conference on Monday, May 13, Sheriff Bill Massee said he was not certain whether Lillard’s claim that he had been in the woods was accurate. Massee added that it had been raining that night.
2. Sheriff: Marcus Lillard Called Friends to Ask About How to Perform CPR & Waited More Than Two Hours Before Calling 911
Sheriff Bill Massee explained during the news conference that investigators are working to piece together what time Marianne Shockley may have died based on Marcus Lillard’s phone calls.
Lillard reportedly texted and called friends to ask about how to perform CPR around 11 or 11:30 p.m. on Saturday evening. Massee noted a specific call to a friend with medical training. Lillard allegedly asked that person how to bring someone to life.
The 911 call came in at 1:06 a.m. on Sunday, May 12. Massee said that deputies arrived and were suspicious of Lillard’s story that this was a drowning. Massee cited the blood found at the scene and the demeanor of Lillard and Heindel. He added that deputies waited until daylight to more properly inspect the entire scene and that investigators spent about 15 hours there.
3. Clark Heindel Committed Suicide at the Scene; Marcus Lillard is Charged With Murder, Concealing a Death & Assault
Deputies separated Marcus Lillard and Clark Heindel in order to question them, though neither of them was under arrest at that time. Lillard was questioned in a Baldwin County deputy’s patrol car.
Meanwhile, Heindel was left unaccompanied in his house. Deputies said they heard a gunshot come from the master bathroom. They discovered that Heindel had committed suicide. Sheriff Massee described this development as a “terrible incident,” expressed sympathy for Heindel’s family and added that the department was looking into why Heindel had been left alone. Massee explained that Heindel was a clinical psychologist but was not licensed at the time of his death. Heindel also reportedly owned a yoga studio, according to the sheriff.
Lillard was later formally arrested for Shockley’s death and booked into the Baldwin County Jail. He is charged with murder by strangulation, concealing a death and aggravated assault. Sheriff Massee explained that they added the “concealing a death” charge based on the fact that he waited two hours to call 911.
As referenced above, the preliminary autopsy report revealed that Marianne Shockley died from strangulation.
4. Sheriff’s Department: Marcus Lillard Had Recently Quit His Job as a Car Salesman
Marcus Lillard lives in the Milledgeville, Georgia, area and previously worked as a car salesman. During the May 13 press conference, it was revealed that Lillard had recently quit his job, which was in Albany, Georgia. It was not clear if he had obtained new employment.
Sheriff Massee was asked whether investigators knew if Lillard and Marianne Shockley had an argument before her death. He responded that he could not provide specific details about interviews with Lillard, but added that he didn’t believe any argument was mentioned to investigators.
The sheriff said he was not sure how long Lillard and Shockley had known each other. He speculated that it had been a few months.
5. Marianne Shockley Worked in the Entomology Department at the University of Georgia
Marianne Shockley was an academic professional associate at the University of Georgia in the College of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences. As of this writing, her bio on the Department of Entomology website remained active.
Sheriff Massee confirmed that Shockley had a Ph.D. in Entomology. According to her Linkedin profile, she earned it from the University of Georgia in 2009. Shockley earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Georgia College & State University in 1997. She wrote that her job included teaching both undergraduate and graduate-level courses, directing the study abroad program in Costa Rica and Ecuador, and advising entomology undergraduate students.