At hearing for double-murder suspect, witnesses describe fleeing for their lives; detective recounts finding hit list

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Rodney E. Marshall is pictured Friday, Aug. 25, 2023, at a hearing in Douglas County District Court.

Updated at 6:14 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25

Witnesses testified in Douglas County District Court about a night of chaos and fleeing for their lives last summer, and a detective described finding a “hit list” with the victims’ names on it, during a preliminary hearing Friday for a man accused of killing two men, then leading police on a car chase while shooting at pursuing officers.

Rodney E. Marshall, 52, faces two counts of first-degree murder, five counts of attempted capital murder of a law enforcement officer and one count of attempted murder of a civilian, according to charging documents. The charges are in connection with the shooting deaths of William D. O’Brien, 43, of Lawrence, and Shelby McCoy, 52, of Lawrence, on July 31, 2022, at separate locations.

One witness, Shawn Demaline, testified that he lived at 1115 Tennessee St., where McCoy was shot. He said the house they lived in was split into multiple apartments where some of the living space was shared but residents had their own rooms.

Demaline said he knew McCoy as a neighbor mostly but that they shared meals together. Demaline said he had cooked biscuits and gravy around midnight for everyone in the house that night, and about five minutes before the shooting had spoken with McCoy in McCoy’s bedroom on the first floor.

Demaline said he went to his own room on the second floor and heard a gunshot. A few seconds later he heard two more. He said he exited his bedroom and could see a shadow running by the front of the house. He yelled to the other housemates, who were also coming out of their rooms, that he thought they were being robbed.

He testified that he ran down the stairs and onto the front porch, where he saw a man “dressed as a Ninja Turtle.” He said the man was wearing a blond wig and a green turtle shell that looked like a backpack. Demaline said the man had face paint and was standing next to a moped.

“A man behind a moped lifted up a pistol and shot at me four times,” Demaline said.

Demaline said he ran back into the house for cover after the first bullet whizzed past his head.

“The first one, I heard it go by my ear,” Demaline said.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Tatum asked if Demaline knew the shooter and whether Demaline believed the shooter was in the courtroom.

“I could see his eyes. I’m looking in his eyes right now,” Demaline said, referring to Marshall.

Demaline said he knew Marshall’s face because Marshall had visited McCoy in the past to have his moped painted.

Demaline said that after Marshall fired at him, Marshall got on his moped and drove away. Demaline checked himself for wounds, then heard Chuck McCoy yelling that Shelby, Chuck’s brother, had been shot.

He went into Shelby’s room and saw Shelby with a bullet wound in his forehead and leg, Demaline said, and he took off his shirt and wrapped it around Shelby’s head. He said Shelby was slumped over on a couch moaning but didn’t say anything.

He said he then saw a chrome gun on the floor and he picked it up and searched the house for anyone else who might be in it. Demaline said he then gave the gun to Chuck’s wife, Melanie, in Chuck and Melanie’s room on the second floor.

Demaline said another housemate called 911 and police and medics arrived shortly after.

After Demaline’s testimony, Rhonda Salvador, O’Brien’s girlfriend, testified that she and O’Brien had been dating for about three years and she referred to him as her husband, though they weren’t married. She said the two were in bed “sick” and in withdrawal from heroin use in their upstairs bedroom at their home at 325 Northwood Lane.

Salvador said she and O’Brien were calling people trying to find more heroin and that O’Brien had just finished a call with a young person who was going to bring them some when they heard someone at the door. Salvador said that O’Brien went to answer the door and she could hear him talking to Marshall from the bedroom.

She said Marshall and O’Brien had been friends for a few years and Marshall frequently came by to sell them drugs. She said Marshall would come to their house driving his blue moped.

She said she recognized Marshall’s voice as he was asking whether O’Brien had any “brown,” a slang term for heroin. She said she thought it was weird that Marshall was asking that because she believed he knew they did not have any drugs.

She said she heard a short scuffle before she heard a gunshot. She ran to the stairs and saw O’Brien’s feet at the bottom of the stairwell with another pair of feet standing over him.

“I saw him (Marshall) standing there for a minute, then he walked out the open door,” Salvador said.

She said she screamed and ran down the stairs where she found O’Brien had turned blue and would not respond to her, and she heard a moped driving away. She said she then called 911 and told them her husband had been shot. She said she then panicked and ran out of the house in fear that Marshall would return for her.

Salvador said she had ended the call with the 911 operator and was running through the neighborhood hiding behind houses when she saw Marshall’s moped driving down an alleyway near her home following what she believed was Marshall’s truck being driven by someone else. She said she believes they were checking to see if police had arrived at O’Brien’s house yet.

She said she avoided them and tried to call for a ride while running away. She said she eventually encountered a group of people delivering food and asked them to help her. Those people gave Salvador a ride to a friend of Salvador’s, but her friend wasn’t home. Salvador said she eventually contacted two other friends, who picked her up.

Salvador said she took some heroin from one of the friends before reconnecting with police to give a formal statement. She said she was not high on heroin when she gave her statement but the amount she took was enough to ease the withdrawal symptoms.

During her interview with police she said that Marshall had created a Facebook group focused on a list of “snitches” and had added O’Brien to the group to her dismay.

After Salvador testified, multiple law enforcement officers and civilian investigators testified about shell casings and weapons found at each crime scene and the chase that followed the shootings.

One sheriff’s deputy, Chase Reiling, testified that during the chase after he heard gunshots being fired at him all he could think about was whether he would make it home to his fiancée.

The lead detective on the case, Meghan Bardwell, presented a Powerpoint timeline of the events with video recovered from Marshall’s own surveillance cameras, traffic cams and footage from police vehicles and body cameras. Video showed Marshall dancing in his garage as he dressed in a costume and attached a stuffed octopus to his moped and grabbed a rifle believed to have been used to kill O’Brien.

Bardwell said that during the investigation a civilian investigator recovered a “hit list” titled “connect the dots” in Marshall’s home with McCoy and O’Brien listed near the top of the list with question marks next to their names.

Bardwell said that the entire incident from when Marshall left his house to when both killings occurred took only 28 minutes. Law enforcement arrived at Marshall’s residence around 4:30 a.m. and watched as he loaded tents and a generator into a blue truck. She said they didn’t want to take him at his house because they didn’t know what he might have in store for them or if he would barricade himself inside, so they waited until he left the house.

Bardwell’s testimony will continue with cross examination by defense attorneys Cline Boone and Matthew Cohen on Nov. 21, when another detective and Marshall’s girlfriend are expected to testify. The girlfriend has requested that an attorney be appointed to her before she takes the stand.

Marshall is being held at the Douglas County Jail on a $1.5 million bond.


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