Questions Raised on Author's Suicide-Murder Finding

The shooting death of a California author and his two children a month ago prompted a prompt ruling of suicide -- and later questions about whether the initial finding was correct.

Authorities said Philip Marshall, in his mid-50s, killed his son Alex, 17, daughter, Macaila, 14, Jan. 31 at their home in Murphys before killing himself with his Glock. The three are shown in a family photo at left. The family dog also was shot.
Freelance investigative reporter and author Wayne Madsen, a colleague of mine in Washington, DC, travelled to the crime scene to probe the matter further. His reports have argued against the original finding of suicide. Local authorities responded late last week by saying their investigation is continuing.

One question raised by Madsen, shown at right, pertains to the logistics of the Marshall's shooting. In one column, Madsen reported: Exclusive: Investigative Author Phil Marshall right-handed but sheriff claims he shot himself in left side of his head. Madsen also questions why the local sheriff's office arranged for the victims' home to be cleaned so promptly. Sample news coverage is listed below in reverse chronological order.

As larger context, both Madsen and Marshall are authors writing about controversial topics. Marshall, a former United Airlines pilot, has written about his work with drug-runner Barry Seal during the Iran-contra scandal. Seal was murdered in 1986. Also, Marshall has challenged official accounts of 9/11. He was working on a new book about the 1963 assassination of President John Kennedy, one of more than 250 by various authors. 


Salon, Report: Michael Hastings feared his car had been tampered with, Aug. 21, 2013.

Wayne Madsen Report, Phil Marshall's 'docu-novel' cites Poppy and Jeb Bush as villains in Iran-contra, March 18, 2013. (Subscription required)

Madsen, a former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, has written a half dozen books with hard-hitting commentaries. The most recent are L'Affaire Petraeus, published in December on the resignation of the CIA director. Madsen argues in it that Petraeus was caught being disloyal to the president in the re-election campaign. Madsen published The Manufactured President about the president's hidden past in June. 

Madsen is a shoe-leather muckraker who seeks to emulate the late Jack Anderson. Madsen has travelled to Rwanda to investigate genocide, for instance, and to Southeast Asia to expose VIP Western pedophiles.

In the United States, his topics range from scandals at the highest levels of government to Peter Falk/Columbo-style street reporting to ferret out clues of deaths that catch his attention. 

Last year, for example, he spent more than two hours talking to hearsay witnesses to piece together circumstances of a fatal fall from a restaurant ledge by a Defense Department employee whom the Washington Post had declined to name in a news story. I saw him in action for the first hour or so of that probe before I headed home to do my own work. What I saw was genuinely impressive in his ability to persuade those he encountered to share information. Sources included a federal security officer who witnessed the death's immediate aftermath, and restaurant personnel who spoke to official investigators. I'm still not sure what that story added up to -- but am glad someone is pursuing such leads with talent and an open mind. 

The reports below on the California death include two from Madsen's investigative website, accessible by a monthly ($7) or yearly ($32) subscriptions.

Madsen told a radio interviewer that he was 100% certain of irregularities in the official account. He said, for example, that the crime scene was illegally and surreptitiously cleaned up by professionals, including “a SUV, license undetermined, with an array of communication antennas bristling from the roof." Further, he told interviewer Kevin Barrett that all of Marshall’s neighbors believe it was a professional murder, not the murder-suicide claimed by local police.

His reports on the Marshall killing have generated controversy, including from some armchair bloggers who adopt a cynical or iconoclastic persona.

One criticism of Madsen is that he charges for his work. The criticism is preposterous. His reporting was based on travel to a remote section of California near the Nevada border to visit the crime scene and interview community residents. Subscriptions are necessary to fund that kind of travel, just as subsciptions and book sales fund travel for other independent writers.

Another more convoluted complaint from several pundits is that any suggestion of murder is absurd on its face because others besides Marshall write about controversial topics without being killed. 

Complaints from afar deserve little weight. Instead, the best answers will come from official investigations that are thorough, and monitored by independent news coverage. As one step, Madsen has launched a petition to the White House seeking a Department of Justice investigation to augment the work of local authorities.


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Related News Coverage

Wayne Madsen Report, Phil Marshall's 'docu-novel' cites Poppy and Jeb Bush as villains in Iran-contra, Wayne Madsen, March 18, 2013. (Subscription required.)  Did Phil Marshall have new information on a videotape that showed Jeb and Dubya taking possession of 2 kilos of cocaine at an airfield in Fort Meyers, FL?

Wayne Madsen Report, Taking on the conspiracy theory meme, Wayne Madsen, March 5, 2013 (Subscription required.) It's as if the shooting deaths of an author and one-time CIA/Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) contract pilot, his two children, and pet dog are a mere footnote to some journalists. What is more important to them -- beyond the facts in the case of the deaths of retired United Airlines pilot Philip Marshall and his children -- is to debunk another "9/11 conspiracy theory." We now live in an era when certain news stories that are uncomfortable to some interests are deemed "conspiracy theories" and should, therefore, be forgotten. Keep in mind that Watergate, Iran-contra, the Savings and Loan collapse, and the Ken Starr crusade against President Bill Clinton were all conspiracies. Many mafiosi leaders were convicted and jailed under federal Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) conspiracy laws.

Legal Schnauzer, Investigative Reporter Finds Holes In Official Finding Of Murder-Suicide In California Death of 9/11 Author, Roger Shuler, March 1, 2013. The 9/11 author who was found dead in his California home earlier this month was right-handed, but authorities determined that he shot himself in the left side of the head, a prominent investigative journalist reports. The bodies of Phillip Marshall, his two children, and the family dog were found on February 2, and officials quickly determined it was a murder-suicide. But the Washington, D.C.-based Wayne Madsen Report (WMR) has found evidence that contradicts the official finding. WMR reports that Marshall might have possessed something in his Murphys, California, home that prompted someone to commit murder. Also, the community in Calaveras County is pushing for the sheriff's office to conduct a more thorough investigation. Marshall was the author of several books that questioned the official story of 9/11. His most recent work, The Big Bamboozle: 9/11 and the War on Terror was released in 2012. But WMR reports that Marshall was working on a new book, and that might have led to his death. Wayne Madsen's reporting is available by subscription at his Web site, but we have received permission to quote from his work on the Marshall case. Writes Madsen: "It is known that Marshall was working on a fourth book. Marshall told a close friend shortly before his death: "You're not going to believe the stuff I'm going to have in the next book." Forensics of the case do not seem to add up to murder-suicide--and simple logistics also raise troubling questions."

Calaveras Enterprise, Investigators closing in on Marshall case, March 1, 2013. If everything falls into place, the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office may soon release a detailed statement about its Philip Marshall investigation. If everything falls into place, the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office may soon release a detailed statement about its Philip Marshall investigation. Marshall, 54, is believed to have fatally shot his two children, Alex, 17, Macaila, 14, and the family dog before turning the gun on himself at his home in Forest Meadows in early February. Since then, some people have suggested Marshall wasn’t capable of taking the lives of his family, and the incident may have been a triple murder rather than a double murder-suicide. Sgt. Chris Hewitt with the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office said the team of investigators working on the case is top-notch. “Everyone should know that our detectives are professional, very experienced and highly trained,” he wrote. “I would put them up against any detective from any other agency any day of the week.” “Based on the facts and evidence gathered during the investigation, we stand behind our conclusion that Philip Marshall was the shooter,” he continued. Hewitt said the release he is preparing should answer most of the questions people have about the incident. Detectives are wrapping up the investigation, and once they do Hewitt will send out the release.

Legal Schnauzer, Author Disputes Official Story of 9/11 Terror Attacks; Then Winds Up Dead In the California Desert,  Roger Shuler, Feb. 28, 2013. The author of a recent book that questions the official story of 9/11 was found dead earlier this month--along with his teen-age son and daughter and the family dog--at their home in the desert community of Murphys, California.

Wayne Madsen, Phil Marshall's "tweets" prior to his death, Wayne Madsen Report, Feb. 27, 2013. (Subscription required.) Does the road from Murphys, California lead to Dallas in 1963?

Mad Cow Morning News, Dad Kills Kids and Self: The Philip Marshall Story, Daniel Hopsicker, Feb. 26, 2013. There are 27,386 books about the 9/11 attack currently being sold on  Amazon. The authors of 27,385 of them are still alive, or dead from natural causes. That leaves Philip Marshall, author of a self-published book about 9/11 called The Big Bamboozle

Wayne Madsen, Marshall right-handed but sheriff claims he shot himself in left side of his head, Wayne Madsen Report, Feb. 22, 2013. (Subscription required.) New evidence proves Sheriff's report inconclusive in Marshall family deaths.

Veterans Today, 100% Certain”: 9/11 Author Was Killed in Black Ops Hit, Kevin Barrett, Feb. 20, 2013. After a week-long on-site investigation, former National Security Agency officer Wayne Madsen is “100% certain” that 9/11 investigator and author Philip Marshall and his two children were killed in a black ops hit. Madsen’s conclusion is that the cover story – an alleged murder-suicide – is transparently absurd. Madsen stated his conclusions on yesterday’s Kevin Barrett show. Among the evidence cited by Madsen: "Neighbors’ houses are “practically on top of” Marshall’s house, so dozens of neighbors would have heard any gunshots that weren’t muffled by a silencer…and Marshall’s “patsy gun” did not have a silencer.

Santa Barbara View, Phillip Marshall Wrote About a Conspiracy; Was He the Victim of One? Editor, Feb. 12, 2013. Former airline pilot Phillip (alternately, “Philip”) Marshall spent a great deal of time around Santa Barbara last year preparing for the release of his controversial 9/11 conspiracy book “The Big Bamboozle: 9/11 and the War on Terror.” During the editing and pre-marketing process of Marshall’s book, he expressed some degree of paranoia because the nonfiction work accused the George W. Bush administration of being in cahoots with the Saudi intelligence community in training the hijackers who died in the planes used in the attacks.

Calveras County Enterprise, Did mental illness drive father to kill? Joel Metzger, Feb. 8, 2013. Those close to the investigation of a man who killed his two teenage children before turning the gun on himself last week said the killer may have been suffering from bipolar disorder. Friends said he was having trouble getting his medication “straightened out” in the months leading up to the shooting. Former United Airlines captain, Little League Coach and author Philip Marshall, 54, killed his son Alex, 17, and daughter Macaila, 14, each with a single bullet to the head as they lay on a living room couch at his home in Forest Meadows, according to investigators with the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office. He then killed a dog belonging to his estranged wife Sean and turned the gun on himself. Sean was traveling in Turkey on business when the shootings took place. Calaveras County Sheriff Gary Kuntz said he has devoted all the resources at his disposal to performing a thorough investigation of this incident.

Calaveras Enterprise, Autopsy results released in double murder suicide, Joel Metzger, Feb.5, 2013. Calaveras County Coroner Kevin Raggio said he determined Philip Marshall and his two children were all killed by a gunshot wound to the head, after performing an autopsy Tuesday morning. For details, read "Tragedy at Forest Meadows." The weapon used in all the killings was a Glock 9mm, which was registered to Marshall, according to Sgt. Chris Hewitt of the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office.'

Sonora Union Democrat, Three dead in murder-suicide, Staff report, Feb. 4, 2013.  Two Murphys teens and their father are dead in an apparent murder-suicide that has both shocked and saddened residents of their gated community and the high school the youths attended. At Bret Harte High in Angels Camp this morning, Principal Mike Chimente led students in a somber moment of silence and the Pledge of Allegiance. He said counselors would be on hand at the school all week for grieving staff and students. Friends of the Marshall teens became concerned when the siblings failed to meet them as planned Friday. They went to the Marshall residence about 3 p.m. Saturday to check up and, through a window, saw Philip Marshall lying on the floor in a pool of blood, according to a sheriff’s report. Sheriff’s deputies were called. Upon entering the home, the deputies found the bodies of Marshall and his children. The two teens were lying on the couch, said Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Chris Hewitt. The victims and their father apparently each died of a single gunshot to the head. The weapon was a Glock semi-automatic handgun, Hewitt said. The handgun was under the father, who was lying face up on the floor, Hewitt said.

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

COPASalon, Report: Michael Hastings feared his car had been tampered with, Jillian Rayfield,  Aug. 21, 2013. According to the LA Weekly, reporter Michael Hastings asked to borrow a friend's car shortly before his death

Coalition on Political Assassinations (COPA), Early Registration Discounts for COPA 2013 Conference in Dallas, Rob Morrow, March 4, 2013. COPA is currently planning the 20th annual conference in Dallas which will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy and the 45th anniversaries of the murders of Robert F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King. The theme is: “50 Years is Enough! Free the Files – Find the Truth.” Events are from Nov.  22-24, 2013 in Dallas. Featured are the leading researchers, authors, ballistics, forensic and medical experts who have worked on these cases over the last five decades and the best documentary films. We plan to hold our Moment of Silence on the Grassy Knoll at 12:30 pm on November 22 as we have for the past 49 years. Among the confirmed speakers are Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, JD, MD (our founding president), Walt Brown, Peter Dale Scott, Jesse Ventura, Dr. Gary Aguilar, Robert Groden, David Talbot, Dick Russell, Russ Baker, Joan Mellen, Dr. Ernst Titovets (Oswald’s best friend), Jefferson Morley, Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, Baba Zak Kondo, Bill Kelly, Bill Simpich, Andrew Kiel, Chris Pike, Kenn Thomas, Stan Weeber, Wayne Smith, Ben Rogers, Edward Curtin, Michael Calder, Bill Holiday, Mel Barney and many others. Please plan to join us for our most important conference to date. Pre-registrants have filled the rooms available at the Hotel Lawrence. We have arranged for additional rooms at a discount rate at Aloft, an upscale hotel near Dealey Plaza. A special discount early registration rate of $125 and a banquet rate of $45 for those who register with us by mail or email by June 30. Payment for early registration can be made any time before June 30, 2013, and can be done at this website as a donation or sent by check or money order to COPA. After that the rate will go up to $150. We need to know whether you plan to be there. We can seat up to 150 people at our special banquet dinner, but we have to know as soon as possible if you plan to attend. Email contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Mail: COPA, P.O. Box 772, Washington, DC 20044., Morley v. CIA: Why I sued for JFK assassination records, Jefferson Morley, Feb. 23, 2013. In reporting on my February 25 federal court date with the CIA, I explained the goals of my Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking certain ancient JFK assassination records. But a friend noted that I hadn’t really explained my theory of the case. I get these questions a lot. What the hell is Morley v. CIA all about? What are you saying happened in Dealey Plaza? What do you think was really going on? And, inevitably, what’s your theory? I usually shy away from answering such questions because the lawsuit seeks to answer them. Until I have all the evidence, it is not really my job as a journalist to speculate or guess. And it is the CIA’s obligation under the law to release the records, if they are related to JFK’s assassination. But with U.S. government officials impugning my professionalism, I realize I should explain in more detail why — and how — the documents I seek are related to JFK’s assassination. My contention is that at least some of the files I seek are related to JFK’s assassination. If this claim is correct, then certain CIA officials are violating the law in 2013....I have sought to clarify the issue through official channels without success. The staff of the National Archives is responsible for enforcing the JFK Records Act. At my request, interested Archives staffers asked the CIA for permission to review the Joannides files. The CIA refused, saying the matter is under litigation, referring to my case.  The audacity of the CIA is impressive, or appalling, depending on your politics. The agency cites my lawsuit seeking release of certain ancient JFK files as a way of preventing the National Archives from enforcing the JFK Records Act, which requires release of such documents.

OpEdNews, Right-wing Supreme Court Justices Attack US Voting Rights Act, Ed Hightower, March 1, 2013. On Wednesday, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Shelby County v. Holder, which challenges the key enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965. Right-wing justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and John Roberts made clear their opposition to the act. Justice Clarence Thomas, the fourth member of the far-right bloc on the court was, as usual, silent, and the "swing vote," Justice Anthony Kennedy, acidly questioned the continued relevance of the landmark ruling. The tenor of these reactionaries suggested the existence of a five-vote majority to either overturn or eviscerate the provisions of the law that require states of the former Jim Crow South and certain other jurisdictions to pre-clear changes in voting procedures with the federal government, so as to insure the right of blacks and other minorities to vote.

Huffington Post, Obama Pardons 17 People, Largely For Minor Offenses, Julie Pace, March 1, 2013. President Barack Obama on Friday issued pardons for 17 people, largely for minor offenses. Those receiving pardons came from 13 states and had been sentenced for crimes that included falsely altering a money order, unauthorized acquisition of food stamps, drug violations, and possession of an unregistered firearm. No one well-known was on the list released by the White House. Some of the crimes drew light penalties in the first place – such as a North Carolina woman sentenced to two years' probation and 100 hours of community service for distributing satellite cable decryption devices. The White House offered no details on why these particular people were selected by Obama, who has issued relatively few pardons since taking office. He granted his first pardons in December 2010, to nine people convicted of such offenses as drug possession, counterfeiting and mutilating coins. He also issued two separate batches of pardons in 2011, including eight people in May for relatively minor offenses and five people that November.

Legal Schnauzer, Why Do Ex Wives Of Campus Crest CEO Ted Rollins Tend To Issue Warnings About Possible Child Abuse? Roger Shuler, Feb. 28, 2013.  Birmingham resident Sherry Carroll Rollins did not realize it at the time, but she now says Ted Rollins' first wife tried to warn her that he might abuse her two sons from a previous marriage. Sherry and Ted Rollins were married for 14 years before their divorce was finalized in 2005, right here in my backyard, Shelby County, Alabama. Ted Rollins grew up in one of the nation's wealthiest families, the folks behind Orkin Pest Control, and he has gone on to become CEO of Campus Crest Communities, a Charlotte-based developer of student housing that has received more than $400 million in Wall Street support.

Washington Post, Manning Pleads Guilty to Counts in WikiLeaks case, Julie Tate and Ernesto Londoño Feb. 28, 2013. The Army private charged in the biggest leak of classified material in U.S. history pleaded guilty to 10 charges Thursday and offered an impassioned defense of his actions, arguing that he sought to spark a national debate about what he described as the nation’s obsession with “killing and capturing people.” The testimony marked Pfc. Bradley Manning’s first detailed account of his disclosure of a trove of U.S. diplomatic cables and military documents in 2010 to WikiLeaks, an anti-secrecy organization he said he approached after he was unable to entice The Washington Post and the New York Times.

FireDogLake, Bradley Manning Describes ‘Collateral Murder’ Video as ‘War Porn,’  Kevin Gosztola, February 28, 2013. In a military court at Fort Meade, Maryland, Pfc. Bradley Manning pled guilty to unauthorized possession of certain information, to willfully communicating that information to an unauthorized person, WikiLeaks, and that the conduct was “service discrediting” or prejudicial to the good order and discipline of the military.


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