A Bellingham man who beat his roommate and left him out in the cold to die in early March was sentenced to more than a decade in prison Thursday in Whatcom County Superior Court.
Travis James Marshall, 41, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for the death of his roommate, David Quintin Williams, 53.
Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis ordered Marshall to serve 10 ¼ years in prison, three years of probation and prohibited him from consuming alcohol.
Montoya-Lewis acknowledged during sentencing that the recommended penalty was the product of lengthy negotiations between defense and prosecution attorneys – she noted, however, it was still hard for her to sentence Marshall on the lower end of the range.
In addressing the court, Williams’ wife, Janeane Ardiel, recounted the story of how she and Williams met, moved to Bellingham and married. She told the court how Williams would make remarks about their adventures together, praised his mind and talked about his contagious laugh.
“He was kind, and it’s a huge void in my life. There’s a huge hole in my heart and I feel so lost without him. Every picture of his smile breaks my heart,” Ardiel said. “My life has been turned upside down. There are no words to describe how hard it is. It has been absolute torture for me. It’s tore my heart apart. All I have left are those memories.”
“He’s taken my life and my heart from me,” she added, addressing Marshall. “I loved David every day since we started talking, I loved him every day of my life. I just wish I met him sooner so I could have loved him longer.”
For his part, Marshall told the court Williams was his best friend and he had never intended, nor remembers harming him.
“I don’t know how this all happened. When I sleep my dreams seem real, but when I awake the nightmare continues. I miss David and his soulful, bluesy voice and big smile. He had a heart of gold and I’m sorry he’s gone,” Marshall said. “I curse alcohol and how it’s destroyed my life and the lives of others around me again and again.”
Both the defense and prosecuting attorneys said Marshall’s actions were the result of an assault gone horribly wrong and there was never an intent to kill. The roommates had been drinking – Marshall was prone to alcohol blackouts – and cordial until sometime later in the evening when an argument ensued. How the argument happened, or what occurred, remains unclear.
On March 3 at 4:44 a.m., emergency medical personnel were called to a yard outside 721 E. Illinois St. for a man, later identified as Williams, who was severely injured and unresponsive. Twelve minutes later, Williams was pronounced dead at the scene. His death was the result of blunt force trauma to the head along with other severe injuries, loss of blood and exposure to 40-degree weather, according to court papers. Police believe Williams had been left outside for hours in the night.
During the course of the investigation, detectives found that Marshall and Williams were drinking earlier in the night at the Black Forest Steakhouse, where Williams was the head chef for 10 years. Marshall had a problem with a man who he perceived to be too aggressive in the steakhouse. Other members of the party with Marshall and Williams did not feel the same way, court papers indicate.
Marshall and Williams left the steakhouse and went to Applebee’s, but the pair got into a heated argument and Marshall was asked to leave. He paid his tab and went home. Later, Williams returned to the home with a friend. The friend said Marshall was agitated at first, but then seemed to calm down by the time he left, according to court documents.
Attorneys said they believe Williams and Marshall continued drinking – a bottle of vodka was found inside the home with two glasses set out – and an argument occurred outside which eventually resulted in Williams’ death.
Marshall has one domestic violence conviction for choking and punching a female roommate in the face after an argument in November 2011, according to court documents. A judge in that case required him to get treatment for domestic violence and substance abuse.