A quarter-century after Carrie Marshall was stabbed to death, her survivors endure the frustration and pain of knowing the killer hasn't been caught.

And whoever killed the Lancaster city resident took more than the life of a beloved woman; the killer also took a part of the lives of her children and grandchildren.

As the anniversary of the 57-year-old mother of eight's death approaches, family members talked about who she was, their frustration that the case remains unsolved - and their hope that it still might be - and the impact the killing has had on them.

Five of her seven sons - Joe, Vern, John, Paul and Michael - stepdaughter Clarabell Gantz and two granddaughters, Paula Matters and Christie Marshall, were interviewed in person or by phone.

Christie Marshall, 40, had lived with her grandmother for a time as a child.

"You had to know my grandmother," she said in a phone interview from her home near Pittsburgh. "She was the most caring, the most giving, the most loving. She was the type of woman, if you needed, she would give up to make sure that you had.

"She didn't deserve anything [the killing] that happened to her."

Carrie Marshall was a strong woman who worked hard to raise her children, son Paul Marshall said.

"She was a very nice person. She never bothered anybody," her stepdaughter said. "I don't even know why anybody would … want to harm her."

Carrie Marshall was living with her son, John Marshall, when she was killed. Her husband, Israel Marshall, died two years earlier.

Vern Marshall recalled his mother as lovable and bubbly.

"She was a friendly person. Everybody liked her - except for that dog" - her killer, he said.

Carrie Marshall had been a longtime volunteer with Community Action Program, working with seniors at the Welsh Mountain Community Center.

About two months before her death, she was employed as a kitchen aide at Conestoga View nursing home.

She liked to play bingo and had played the Friday before her death. That Saturday, she had dinner at a friend's house and visited a Santa Claus at a neighbor's home.

Dec. 7

John Marshall, 58, of Gap, found his mother's body.

He choked up as he recalled that night while sitting at the kitchen table of his brother Paul Marshall's home in New Holland.

It was early Monday morning, Dec. 7, 1987.

He had just returned to his brick rowhome at 508 S. Duke St., which he shared with his mother, after a weekend stint as an Air Force reservist at Willow Grove Naval Air Station.

"Everything was ajar, all over the house. So, I started walking up the steps. When I got to the top … I saw my mother in her bedroom, and she was cut up," he said.

Carrie Marshall was in her red nightgown. She had been stabbed well over a dozen times in her face, neck and chest. Some 15 cuts to her hands indicated she tried to defend herself.

John Marshall called police at 12:49 a.m. Dec. 7, according to newspaper records.

"I'm the one that saw my mother," he said. "I have nightmares all the time. Twenty-five years of them. I've lost relationships. My work has suffered. Everything's suffered."

He teared up.

"It's hard to function," he said. "Sometimes I'm good and other days I'm worthless."

Some of Carrie Marshall's children have ideas about what may have happened.

One son talked of several people known to target bingo players; family members said she had won at bingo the Friday before she was killed.

"I just know there are suspects out there," another son said. "I don't want to go into details."

According to newspaper accounts at the time of Carrie Marshall's killing, police considered a botched burglary or that the Marshall home was mistakenly broken into.

Her sons made regular visits to the police department to follow up on the investigation. Those trips have lessened with time, but some of her children plan a return visit this year. They say police have not done enough.

"Hell no," Joe Marshall said.

His brother, Vern, said he wouldn't be opposed to an exhumation of his mother's remains.

"A murder like that, there has to be DNA on my mother. I don't know the extent of what they did before they put her in the ground," he said.

John Marshall thinks there should have been a grand jury.

"I think they could have done a lot more. I know they harassed me enough over 25 years," he said of police asking him for information. He said he told them all he knows.

Lancaster Detective Capt. Kent Switzer understands the family's frustration.

"It might sound like, jeez, it's 25 years old, but we never give up on a case - especially one like this," he said.

Carrie Marshall's killing is the city's second oldest unsolved homicide. Richard E. Martinez, 22, a hair stylist from Lancaster, was found shot to death Dec. 14, 1980, in Lancaster County Central Park.

Over the past five years, there have been 30 homicides in the city; 22 have been solved, Switzer said.

A number of detectives have worked Carrie Marshall's case as people moved on in the department or retired.

That's not an indication that police have given up, Switzer said. A fresh set of eyes on a case can be good, he said.

Citing the investigation, Switzer declined to go into details about theories of what happened or whether police have suspects.

"I can say this, we know there's people out there that have critical information," Switzer said. He urged them to contact police.

Sometimes, he said, people who were once reluctant to share information change.

Enduring grief

For 10 to 15 years after his mother's death, Joe Marshall tried to quell the pain with drugs and booze.

"I stayed so drugged up," he said, punching the words out in a voice filled with a raw hurt palpable through the telephone speaker on Paul Marshall's kitchen table. "I'd stay smoked up, dranked up.

"I'd take drugs to try to wipe it out of my mind," he said. "I didn't care. I didn't care about living," the 60-year-old York resident said.

Relationships with his wife and children suffered. He would eventually get divorced, which he blames on his mother's killing.

One day, he told his oldest daughter, Christie Marshall that he was killing himself with drugs. She talked him into getting help and he's been clean for about a half-dozen years.

Plans changed

Christie Marshall was living near Pittsburgh when her grandmother was killed.

"I was supposed to be with her that weekend, and my dad wouldn't let me go," she said. "I blamed him. I did for many years. … I felt like, if he would have let me go, I would have been able to save her life. … My grandmother was everything to me."

Counseling has largely helped her overcome such feelings, which can resurface this time of year.

Vern Marshall, 59, of upstate New York, said at one time he "firmly believed in God … and when that happened, I gave up all hope of there ever being a God."

The memories prompted him to recount the birth of his oldest son. "He looked so much like her when he was young," Vern Marshall said. "… And it hurts. It hurts to this day."

His mother's death prompted him to study criminal justice in college, "just to find out about what these cops are doing," he said.

"And believe me, [the police] could find information … I know this case could be solved, but also know I'm a lunatic over this. I'm deathly crazy over this."

His mother's homicide is always with him.

"I think about it this time every year. I get depressed. I get [angry]. Somebody will say something and I'll lay in to them," he said.

When he hears someone speaking ill of their parents, he tells them something his father would tell him:

"You never miss the well until it goes dry. And I used to tell my kids the same thing and they'd say, 'What's it mean?' And I'd say, you'll find out, as you get older. And it just hurts so much."

Michael Marshall, 54, of Gap, said his mother had been living with him in Pittsburgh, but returned to Lancaster.

He regrets that.

"What would have happened if she stayed in Pittsburgh. I guess you can't think of it that way, but … ," he said.

"I think of her every day. It's a big loss for me," he said, noting his wife was close with his mother and his children grew up without a grandmother.

"We always hope that somebody comes forward that knows something about it," he said. "Somebody has to know something. In my heart, I know that.

"We just all miss her."

Moving on

Paul Marshall, 53, said he, too, had been angry, but he's been able to move forward over the past decade.

"I had a change in my relationship with God and my understanding, and it's helped me tremendously to move on in life," he said. "Whoever caused this, whoever committed my mother's murder, stole 16 years of my life from me. … I can't change that.

"It took a toll on my children and I didn't want to see that happen to my grandchildren. The kind of person my mother was, I knew she wouldn't want this to happen. … She would want my life to go on."

Reaching out to other families of murder victims has helped, he said.

God, he said, let him share his experience so he could tell others they didn't have to lose time with loved ones.

"The loved one that you lost, where would they want you to go with this? Would they want your life to end right now? No, absolutely not," he said.

He said he has worked to raise and love his children and grandchildren - "which is what I got from my mother," he said.

Paul Marshall's daughter, Paula Matters, was 8 years old when her grandmother was killed.

She knows more of her grandmother from listening to her relatives than she has direct memories, but she does recall events just after the killing.

"I remember being woken up in the middle of the night and being taken to my parents' good friends' house. I know my parents were upset. I didn't know why," she said.

She remembers sitting on her father's lap as he cried at the funeral.

She remembers how her grandmother looked as she lay in the coffin.

She remembers the pain on her relatives' faces.

"We as grandkids have felt it. We've watched it, we've witnessed all the things [older relatives] said they've gone through," she said. "We've been witnesses to all of it - the good, the bad, the indifferent. So it's not going to go away."

She remains hopeful that someone will come forward.

"I'm hoping that us grandkids can lead the charge," she said, "and close a lot of open hearts that are still wounded."


Anyone with information can contact police at 735-3300. Tipsters also may call Lancaster City/County Crime Stoppers at 800-322-1913 or anonymously text LANCS plus a message to 847411 (TIP411).