A Bellingham man broke his hand in a deadly beating on his roommate, who was left to die in the cold outside their duplex on Illinois Street, according to charges filed late Wednesday in Whatcom County Superior Court.
A neighbor called for medical aid at 4:44 a.m. March 3 because Travis James Marshall, 40, was yelling for help for a gravely hurt man in the yard outside 721 E. Illinois St. Twelve minutes later paramedics pronounced Marshall’s roommate, David Quintin Williams, dead at the scene. He was 53.
Marshall watched from a doorway, shirtless, shouting things like: “David, don’t die!” according to the charges. Police saw Marshall’s jeans were soaked in blood. He told police he had lived with Williams for a year, and he last saw him around 10 p.m. March 2 at the Black Forest Steakhouse, where Williams worked as the head chef.
Marshall said he came home alone, went to bed and woke up to his dog barking. He looked outside, he reported, to see Williams unresponsive and bleeding.
At first Marshall said a stranger, a Navy sailor with a few friends, had tried to fight the two of them at the steakhouse, the charges say. Marshall later said Williams went to a bar with that sailor. Police asked how Marshall knew that, if he’d gone home already. He replied that he’d gone with them to Applebee’s, but he got kicked out. Williams, he continued, must have arrived home with the man later.
Police noted Marshall had a broken bone in his right hand, while his left had cuts and needed two sutures. Both hands were bruised and swollen. He said he’d hurt them in a “scrap” with the sailor. Later, when more officers arrived, Marshall’s story changed: He’d hurt his hands by punching a wall at the steakhouse. Detectives found no damage to the walls, and security cameras showed no fight, according to the charges.
Police tracked down other people who saw the roommates that night.
A line cook at the steakhouse told police Marshall had a problem with a man who wore gauged earrings. The man seemed too aggressive to Marshall, though others didn’t feel the same way, the charges say. Marshall accused Williams of not having his back. The argument continued as they went down the street to Applebee’s.
A bartender at Applebee’s overheard that argument. Marshall got so loud that staff asked him to tone it down. Instead he paid his tab and left, the bartender reported. Another friend hanging out with the men said he dropped off Williams at home. There they chatted with Marshall, who still seemed mad at Williams about the man at the steakhouse, according to the friend. He recalled Marshall’s hands looked unhurt.
Search warrants revealed a second pair of jeans, spattered with blood, in the duplex. Police believe Marshall wore those jeans while he beat Williams. Crime scene investigators also found blood spatter in the doorway in a pattern strongly suggesting the door was open when Williams was beaten, the charges state.
“Marshall’s story that he was awakened by his dog barking and then looked outside and saw the body of David Williams on the ground, seriously injured, could not have physically happened,” wrote Whatcom County Prosecutor Dave McEachran.
Dr. Gary Goldfogel, the county medical examiner, found no offensive or defensive wounds on Williams. An autopsy revealed Williams died of blunt trauma to the head – six broken teeth, and other severe head injuries – along with loss of blood and exposure to 40-degree weather. Police believe Williams had been left outside for hours in the night.
Officers booked Marshall into jail last Friday night. He’s charged with second-degree murder.
Marshall has one domestic violence conviction on his record in Bellingham. Marshall choked and beat a female roommate in 2011. He was charged with felony assault, but pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. A judge suspended all but two months of his yearlong sentence.
On Monday an attorney, Phillip Tavel, asked for Marshall’s bail to be reduced from $1 million, in part because it’s a hardship for the defendant to be behind bars while he’s grieving the loss of a friend. Marshall remains in jail, with bail reset at $500,000.
The defense asked again for bail to be reduced to $10,000 on Thursday – emphasizing that Marshall hadn’t been recently fired, as the prosecutor stated in court at the first hearing. His union job had simply ended. Marshall appeared in court with a cast covering his right forearm. Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis denied the motion.
Meanwhile, friends and family mourned the loss of Williams – who “had a smile for everyone, friend or stranger, and his bright personality illuminated any room,” wrote his niece Valerie Brown in an email to The Bellingham Herald. Williams moved from Florida to Bellingham some years ago.
This week bouquets sat on the doorstep of the duplex, where dried blood still hadn’t been cleaned up.
“He was a friend to all and enemy to none, even the ruthless monster that snatched him from us,” Brown wrote. “By no means am I saying he was perfect, but he had a heart of gold, was loved by many, and will be missed with a brokenness that may never heal.”
Friends plan to gather at 9 p.m. Friday to celebrate his life at his favorite karaoke spot, El Gitano, 1125 E. Sunset Drive.