A judge is expected to deliver his decision next month that determines if the brutal slaying of a Union woman was premeditated, or the murder was part of a larger “psychotic features” shown by the suspect.
Circuit Court Judge Gael Wood is expected to issue the verdict of first-degree or second-degree murder Monday, Oct. 3, against Timothy D. Shults, who authorities said murdered Union resident Deborah Marsch, 53, at Autumn Hill Park July 3, 2009.
Shults may also be sentenced the day the verdict is issued. He could receive life in prison with no chance of parole if he is convicted of first-degree murder.
Shults is charged with first-degree murder, however his defense team argues that Shults did not exhibit cool deliberation — required in a first-degree murder conviction — during the strangling death of Marsch. The murder was an apparent random act of violence, authorities have said.
A bench trial in front of Judge Wood was held June 29 through July 1.
Shults had waived a jury trial and is tried in a bench trial, and in exchange the Franklin County Prosecutor’s office agreed to not seek the death penalty for Shults.
During the trial and a subsequent memorandum filed in court, public defender Robert Wolfrum said Shults suffered a personality change, and that claim was “uncontested” by the state’s expert witness Dr. John Rabun.
In an effort for a ruling of the lesser conviction of second-degree murder, Wolfrum also argued that Shults’ actions were triggered by a psychological problem resulting, in part, from a “traumatic brain injury” he suffered in May 2000 after falling through a floor while working at a construction site.
Wolfrum further stated in the memorandum that the state did not prove deliberation beyond a reasonable doubt during trial.
According to reports, Shults confessed to police on Sunday, July 5, 2009, that he killed the woman, then took detectives to the location where he dumped her body off Judith Spring Road.
During police interviews, the suspect said he did not know Marsch but that he was angry and she was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The Franklin County prosecutor’s office argued that it would have taken three minutes of “constant pressure” to strangle Marsch, which shows deliberation on the part of Shults.
The prosecution stated that Shults reacted calmly enough to drag Marsch’s body from the murder scene to the parking lot of Autumn Hill Park, put her body in the bed of his truck and drive it to the site where the body was dumped.
Shults then removed Marsch’s clothing and dumped it in a different area so it would be harder to identify Marsch, authorities said.
Marsch had been missing for two days when authorities questioned Shults about an unrelated incident. Police knew Shults would sometimes go to Autumn Hill Park and asked about the woman’s disappearance.
Shults also is charged in a separate case with burglary, kidnapping, armed criminal action and violation of an order of protection. A trial on those charges has not yet been scheduled.