Ecstasy, “evil” and a hot tub: The strange circumstances in the death of Marianne Shockley
In the early morning hours of May 12, 2019, Baldwin County, Georgia, sheriff’s deputies responded to a 911 call and found Marianne Shockley (right), dead near her friend Clark Heindel’s (center) pool in Milledgeville. Within hours, Clark was also deceased and there was only one survivor from the get together that night: Marianne’s boyfriend Marcus Lillard (left).
Marianne Shockley was a celebrated professor at the University of Georgia where she taught entomology, the study of insects. On campus, she was known as “Doc Shock”. Her passion for insects led her to entomophagy, the practice of eating insects. They could be a solution to world hunger, she believed.
The start of summer break
It was May 11, 2019, and Marianne had just finished the school year. Marianne and Marcus Lillard had spent the day drinking at Milledgeville bars and restaurants. They can be seen here on CCTV footage at Aubri Lane’s, a local restaurant and bar.
Seeing a friend
In a text from earlier that day, Marianne had asked Marcus if he knew anyone with a pool. Marcus mentioned Clark Heindel, a former psychologist and yoga instructor. After a long afternoon of drinking, Clark invited them to his house.
Party of three
Marcus told authorities he and Clark had an impromptu jam session with Marcus on the conga and Clark playing the accordion. Marcus claims that Clark gave them the ecstasy pills.
“It got all fuzzy after that,” Marcus said.
Marcus later told investigators that he thought he and Marianne got into Clark’s hot tub around 9 p.m. At one point Marcus left the hot tub. Marianne said that he begged Marcus to get back in the hot tub, but he chose to go into the woods. Marcus initially claimed that he was going into the woods to get firewood. However, he later admitted that he was trying to recreate a scene from “The Last Shaman,” in which a man burys himself alive in a ritual to overcome his fears. Marcus claims that he didn’t dig a hole but laid down in the woods, and he doesn’t remember how long.
Marianne in the hot tub
When he returned to the pool area, Marcus says he could see Marianne slumped down in the hot tub, up to her nose under water. Marcus claims that he took Marianne out of her hot tub and placed her on a deck. Marcus admits that he dropped Marianne in the hot tub, causing her to have a gash on her forehead. Clark stated that he had been swimming at one end of the pool. Marcus says Clark approached him and suggested calling 911. Marcus claims he refused to do it, and instead they tried to perform CPR for Marianne.
A possible explanation
Penny Dearmin, who created the podcast “Blood Town” about this case, believes Marcus delayed calling the police because of his own criminal history. At the time, he was on probation for a 2015 conviction for selling marijuana and possessing methamphetamine and cocaine. Later, detectives found drugs at the scene.
Unsuccessful attempts to save Marianne
While trying to perform CPR on Marianne, Marcus says Clark found some hydrangea branches and shook them around her body. Marcus suggested to investigators that Clark had picked up this tribal practice in Peru. Clark and Marcus said it sounded like Marianne was still breathing. Marcus called Clark and messaged many friends and acquaintances to get help for Marianne. Marcus dialed his ex-wife from Clark’s phone, and she told him he needed to call 911. It’s unclear how much time passed, but Clark eventually called 911 at 1: 06 a.m.
The authorities arrive
Baldwin County Sheriff’s deputies and EMTs arrived on the scene soon after. Deputies can be heard commenting on the strange feeling in the air through bodycam footage.
“I’m telling you, the hair on the back of my neck’s standing up. One deputy says that something is wrong with this.
Investigators believe Marianne had been dead for at least two hours before help arrived. They questioned Marcus (left) and Clark (right) about why they did not call 911 sooner, the gash on Marianne’s head, and their whereabouts when she was in the hot tub.
A second death
Deputies separated Marcus and Clark from each other until they could be interviewed by investigators. Clark escaped after the deputy who was watching Marcus was able to call him. Marcus was placed in a patrol car and handcuffed. Clark entered his home and no one noticed until deputies heard a loud, muffled sound coming from the inside. They rushed into the house and discovered Clark in his bathroom with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
“A terrible mistake”
When questioned about how this happened, Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee told “48 Hours” that it was a breach of protocol not to detain Clark at the scene. He said that Clark was a friend of one of the deputies and believed that he was not a threat.
“Small town, we know everybody … And he just felt comfortable that nothin’ was gonna happen,” said Massee. Massee said, “It was a terrible error. It was a terrible mistake that had a profound impact on this case. “
Sheriff Massee says Clark was well-known and liked in the community. Although he had suffered some difficult times, including the loss of his 6-year-old son to leukemia and the recent loss of his psychology license, he was supported by many people throughout Milledgeville.
Sheriff Massee found a handwritten note written by Clark on his kitchen counter. Clark wrote in the letter, “I don’t know what happened to [Marianne], but it wasn’t on my watch …””. He also advised his heirs how to handle his possessions.
Marcus is taken in for questioning
There was now only one survivor from the scene that night. Marcus had been placed in the back seat of a patrol vehicle by deputies while they investigated the crime scene. However, Marcus was discovered to be dead and was taken into question by the police.
Marcus was interviewed by Michael Maybin, a special agent for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, also known as the GBI. Marcus was questioned by Maybin to get his account of the night’s events.
Maybin told Marcus that while he was in the patrol car, Clark had gone into his home and shot and killed himself. Marcus fell to the ground when he found out his friend had died.
Marcus immediately began speculating that Clark must have gotten into the hot tub and “done something” to Marianne while he was in the woods. Marcus reacted by stating that Clark couldn’t have hurt Marianne.
Investigators found no proof that Clark did anything to Marianne that night and were eventually able to clear him as a suspect.
The son blames his father
As soon as he heard Marianne was dead, Marcus’ son, Carson Lillard, speculated that his father was guilty of her murder. Carson had seen Clark for therapy when he was 14 years old and the two had become friends. Clark believed that Marianne would never have been hurt by Clark, but Marcus was capable.
“I knew Clark. And — and I also knew Marcus. Carson said, “I knew a peaceful person, but I also knew an angry man.”
Sheriff Massee receives a tip
The day after Marianne’s death, Sheriff Massee got a call from an ex-girlfriend of Marcus with a surprising revelation. According to the woman, Marcus choked her several times during sex, once so much that she lost consciousness. She claimed that Marcus pushed her to the ground and left her there. Marcus claims that this was exaggerated.
The autopsy findings
When the autopsy results came back, they revealed that Marianne had been strangled to death. Dr. Melissa Sims, the Medical Examiner, wrote that Marianne died from strangulation. This case is best described as homicide. “
Marianne’s sister, Ayla Crippen, believes Marcus was responsible for the death.
“I believe that they were having sex, and he choked her, and that is what caused her death,” she told “48 Hours. “
Investigators focus on Marcus
Marcus became the focus of the investigation. Marcus was sat down by Maybin for another interview, and Maybin shared the autopsy report’s findings with him.
“Strangulation is what killed her, OK … you need to tell me what the hell happened because you know, and we need to talk about it,” said Maybin.
Marcus maintained that he did not know what happened to Marianne. On May 13, 2019, the day after Marianne’s death, Marcus was charged with her murder. He was formally indicted nearly two years later in March 2021 and charged with four counts: felony murder, aggravated assault, involuntary manslaughter, and reckless conduct. He was placed on bail.
Largely because of the Covid-19 pandemic, nearly three years went by before Marcus stood trial for the murder of Marianne Shockley. On April 4, 2022, the trial began at the Baldwin County Courthouse in Milledgeville, Georgia.
Marcus was represented by defense attorney Matt Tucker.
Tucker argued Marianne’s death could have been an accident caused by a fatal combination of drugs, alcohol, a hot tub at a temperature of 107 degrees, and Marianne’s cardiomegaly – an enlarged heart. In his closing argument he told jurors Marcus’ guilt could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt
Assistant district attorneys Tammy Coffey and Nancy Malcor (pictured) prosecuted the case. Coffey believes this is what happened between Marcus and Marianne on the night she died:
“After they got in the hot tub, I think that they engaged in sex,” said Coffey. “I believe he choked her. “I think he choked her for too long and too hard. “
Assistant District Attorney Malcor told “48 Hours” there was no clear evidence of any sexual activity because Marianne’s body had been in the hot tub for a prolonged period of time.
GBI agents investigated the theory that Marcus choked Marianne that night. They interviewed eight former sex partners and found that Marcus had choked them during sex. Six of the six women were brought to the stand by the prosecution. Each one testified that Marcus had choked or attempted choke them during sex. Two of the women testified that Marcus had choked them to death.
The question of the hyoid bone
In reviewing the autopsy results, Tucker noticed that the hyoid bone in Marianne’s neck was intact and not broken. Tucker, a surgeon, and other experts consider this unusual in a case of strangulation.
Tucker suggested that the person who strangled Marianne may have been too old or too weak to break her hyoid bone, which he believed could point to Clark as the culprit. The autopsy was completed by the medical examiner, who was called to testify. Tucker said she agreed Clark’s age would be a good match.
A different theory
“48” Hours sent all the autopsy information to Dr. Greg Davis, a forensic pathologist not involved with the case for review. Dr. Davis examined the autopsy photos and documents and concluded that Marianne had been strangled. However, he had another theory.
“A valid competing cause of death is sudden cardiac death due to mixed drug intoxication, a lethal mix of MDMA, alcohol, and marijuana with a contribution from underlying heart disease,” Dr. Davis said in an email to “48 Hours. “
The trial moved swiftly. Jury selection started on a Monday and by that Friday afternoon, April 8, 2022, the case went to the jury. The jury found Marcus Lillard not guilty on all charges.
The judge’s sentence
Although Marcus was found not guilty of the charges, Judge Alison Burleson found that he had violated probation for his 2015 drug conviction. Marcus was remanded to prison and could remain there until October 2030. His attorney claims that he will be released sooner than expected.
Marcus speaks out
In his interview with” 48 Hours” Marcus reflected on the incident and his relationship with Marianne.
“[M]y conscience is very clear when it comes to Marianne,” said Marcus. “Does Marianne bother me?” Yeah. It was a blessing to have that time with her. That is something I will always treasure. But… none of it was my fault. “
I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.