The second of two men charged in the 1993 death of a missing teenager has pleaded guilty and been sentenced.
Joseph N. Marshall, 43, formerly of Pulaski, pleaded guilty yesterday to abuse of a corpse. He was sentenced to serve one to two years in the Lawrence County jail and given credit for two years served.
Marshall and Sean M. McDonough, 42, were arrested in September 2010 for the 1993 death of 15-year-old Laura Lynn Thompson who left her South Side home on Jan. 7, 1993, to play cards. She was never seen again.
In his plea, Marshall said that in January 1993 he dug up and moved the body of Laura Lynn Thompson. No body was ever found.
Lawrence County Judge J. Craig Cox, who accepted the guilty plea and imposed sentence, ordered that Marshall be released yesterday, “as he has attained the maximum term of incarceration.”
The sentence also required Marshall to pay costs of prosecution and forfeit any evidence seized by law enforcement. Marshall was represented by Lawrence County Public Defender Lawrence Keith.
Nancy Thompson, Laura’s mother, was present for the plea and sentencing.
She chose not to speak, but Lawrence County District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa read a letter she had submitted.
In the letter, she asked Marshall why he had kept silent for more than 20 years. She said neither she nor her grandson ever knew what had happened and still have no closure.
Laura’s son was 9 months old when his mother vanished on Jan. 7, 1993.
“Her son grew up without a mother and I grew old without my daughter,” Thompson’s letter said. As a result, she said, her grandson has acted out and broken the law.
“He’s hurt. He wants to hurt everyone,” the letter said.
Thompson told Marshall her daughter was “innocent and just 15 years old. She trusted you.”
“She just wanted to go out, have fun and play cards. I waited and waited for her return. I’m still waiting. Why did you never tell someone?”
Asked if he had anything to say, Marshall turned to Thompson.
“I’m sorry,” he said, his voice breaking. “I’m so sorry. That is all I can say,” he added, sobbing.
Cox said he was concerned about the plea agreement, negotiated and recommended by the district attorney, but said it was appropriate.
“Considering the severity (of the offense) it seems there should be a greater consequence,” Cox said. However, he said, he must also consider the length of time that passed, the amount of time the defendant has already spent in jail and that the only evidence before the court involved abuse of a corpse. He noted these facts “handicapped the commonwealth in its prosecution of other charges.”
Arrested in September 2010, Marshall initially faced nine counts, including homicide, murder in the first, second and third degrees, abuse of a corpse and conspiracy. Had he gone to trial and been found guilty by a jury on all of those charges, he could have faced a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole, plus 42 years and/or a $55,000 fine.
McDonough last week pleaded guilty to third-degree murder. He was sentenced this week to serve eight to 16 years in a state correctional facility.