Profilers have an incomplete picture of killer’s motives

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PORTLAND (AP) – The picture that has emerged of a Canadian man who came to Maine to kill two men on the state’s online sex offender registry is one of a skinny young man who had an interest in guns and was repulsed by sexual predators.

But investigators still don’t have a complete understanding of what prompted Stephen Marshall to go on a killing spree on Easter morning.

Investigators are trying to solve the riddle, but criminal profilers say there are several things that could fit a pattern of a troubled youth: he moved around a lot, his parents divorced, he may have felt isolated, he was comfortable with guns.

But there remain unanswered questions. One was whether Marshall himself was abused. The other was why did his anger boil over early on Easter.

“Why did he wait until this time to act out? What else happened in his life that we’re not aware of? These are some of the things to get inside his head, to determine what was the catalyst,” said Clint Van Zandt, a profiler who spent 25 years with the FBI.

Investigators say Marshall, 20, of North Sydney, Nova Scotia, reviewed the names and information of at least 34 people on the state’s online sex offender registry. While visiting his father in Maine, he drove to the homes of two men and shot them dead.

Marshall took his own life when police caught up with the bus he was riding on more than 12 hours later near Boston’s South Station.

Friends in Idaho and Nova Scotia said Marshall felt strongly about pedophiles. One of them said he thought pedophiles were “worse than killers”; another said he was especially protective of his younger sister in Nova Scotia.

Brent Turvey, author of “Criminal Profiling” and a partner in Forensic Solutions LLC in Sitka, Alaska, said the first thing investigators will look at is whether Marshall was a victim of sexual abuse or whether he has tendencies toward pedophilia.

“This kind of violence specifically toward pedophiles is suggestive of some other issue that’s going on. We’re not getting a full picture of this guy, and we won’t know until the investigation is complete,” he said.

He pointed to enough signs – his interest in guns, his disdain for pedophiles, his isolation – as factors of interest to investigators.

“This is not some random surprise. This is someone who’s been walking this path his entire life. And we’re not getting the full picture,” he said.

For someone to act as he did, it’s likely that there was more to it than just moral indignation or concern for victims of abuse, he added.

“Usually it’s not typically out of a sense of moral justice. Usually it’s about some sort of personal wrong that they’re invested in,” he said.

Gregg McCrary, owner of Behavioral Criminology International consulting firm in northern Virginia, said Marshall’s actions suggest he might have been sexually abused as a child.

In other cases, however, it turns out the killer is attracted to children and engages in a form of “transferred aggression,” he said. If he were sexually attracted to children, Marshall could have been filled with self-hatred, McCrary said.

“Clearly there’s some profound pathology at work,” said McCrary, a former FBI agent. “But right now it’s unclear.”

Marshall, who was 5-foot-9 and weighed 130 pounds, worked as a dishwasher at a Chinese restaurant. His family said the slight young man was picked on because of his size; he had asthma, which kept him out of the military.

He was born in Texas and he lived in Idaho and Arizona in addition to Canada. Sometimes he lived with his father, sometimes with his mother. He was arrested when he was 15 for pointing an assault rifle at a neighborhood teenager in Idaho.

But if he was troubled, he kept his troubles to himself. Friends said he never mentioned being abused. He’d lived in an apartment for a year after having lived with his mother and stepfather in North Sydney.

In an era where every state has an online sex offender registry, the Internet creates a “target-rich environment” for those who want to lash out against sexual predators and sexual abusers, Van Zandt said.

At the same time, sex offenders are plentiful as well. Statistically, a child is kidnapped, raped and killed every three days in America. And for every pedophile who’s arrested, there are often scores of victims.

If he was aware of those statistics, they could have eaten away at Marshall.

“This guy, in his mind, if he was aware of any of these statistics, may see himself as a Timothy McVeigh kind of character who thought he was doing some good, that he was protecting his sister and others,” Van Zandt said.

It will be some time before all of the answers are known. The Maine Computer Crimes Task Force is reviewing data recovered from Marshall’s laptop computer, and state police detectives have been in Nova Scotia conducting interviews.

State police do not intend to release information piecemeal; instead, they’ll wait until they get complete picture before releasing additional details, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.



Clarke Canfield in Portland contributed to this story.

AP-ES-04-22-06 2139EDT

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