Police arrest second suspect in 2009 IC murder

BY BRIAN ALBERT | JULY 15, 2011 7:20 AM

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Iowa City police officers traveled to Texas in order to apprehend a second suspect in the October 2009 slaying of 64-year-old landlord John Versypt.

And though officials said they only send police out of state to apprehend a possible suspect in extreme cases, they stood by their decision Thursday.

Working with area officers, Iowa City police said they apprehended Justin Alexander Marshall, 20, without incident at 2:15 a.m. Thursday in Lancaster, Texas. He is charged with first-degree murder, a Class A felony for which Marshall could serve a life sentence.

Detectives Paul Batcheller and Mike Smithey of the Iowa City police drove to Texas on Wednesday to give Marshall an opportunity to speak with them. Sgt. Denise Brotherton, also of the department, said it is crucial to speak with a defendant as soon as possible, as people may give different reports the longer they are in custody.

Marshall chose to remain silent.

For Smithey, the advantages of personal contact outweigh the costs and time of traveling.

"It's easy to tell somebody 'no' over the phone," Smithey said. "Sometimes a phone call is ideal, but in many cases, you benefit from meeting in person."

Brotherton said it's atypical to send officers out of state, though it depends entirely on the severity of the case being investigated.

"It's great that we don't see a lot of murders or other extremely serious crimes, but when they happen, we owe it to the victim to send officers out to investigate," Brotherton said. "If there's even a slight chance we could learn something from traveling, we will have people check into it."

Brotherton said the two officers drove to Texas but did not spend the night.

Coralville Police Chief Barry Bedford said his department had nothing to do with Marshall's capture, but he understands Iowa City police's eagerness to travel and meet the defendant.

"We've sent people to recover evidence and dig things up," he said. "In a major investigation like a murder, you've got to do whatever it takes."

Police found Versypt in the hallway of his apartment building, 1958 Broadway St., with a gun next to his body in the fall of 2009. An autopsy confirmed he died of a gunshot wound to the head and that the bullets recovered from the scene were fired from the weapon found at the scene.

The first suspect, Charles William Curtis Thompson, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in February 2010. Reports said witnesses claimed Thompson was twice seen wielding the same weapon found at the crime scene and that he was wearing clothing in line with the description of a person who fled the area. His garments were later forensically examined, revealing gunshot residue.

Further investigation alleges that Marshall was in the same hallway shortly before Versypt arrived. Witnesses said they heard a "pop" sound, followed by Marshall knocking a door and whispering to be let in.

Officers said an analysis of Marshall's clothing also tested positive for components that make up gunshot residue and that he had attempted to have three people provide him with an alibi for the time of the murder.

Thompson pleaded not guilty to the charge in March 2010; his trial is scheduled for Sept. 19.

No dates have been set regarding Marshall.

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