Cobb Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge James Bodiford set bond at $159,200 after hearing witnesses and legal argument by Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Herbert “Buzz” Franklin and Marsh defense attorney Ken Poston. Marsh must be able to produce $39,200 in cash. The remaining $150,000 may be paid in property bonds or through an approved bonding company.
Lisa Cash of East Ridge, whose mother’s remains were found at the crematory, said she was “devastated” by the bond ruling and believes Marsh would be safer in jail because he has made “a lot of enemies.”
Marsh “got up there saying ‘I would never hurt anyone,’” she said. “He has hurt 339 families. He has hurt plenty of people.”
“I want him to suffer,” said Cash’s husband, Rusty. Mr. Cash believes the judicial process has been too easy for Marsh and the bond amount set was not high enough, given Marsh’s crimes.
“You just cannot throw people’s loved ones in a barn or in the woods,” he said, adding someone could seek vengeance on Marsh.
Rock Thomas, whose mother was among the first uncremated bodies recovered from the crematory, said he accepts the judge’s ruling, but wants Marsh to receive a heavy sentence.
“I’m going to let the criminal justice system take its course,” Thomas said. “If that’s Judge Bodiford’s ruling (allowing bond), then OK. What will really tick me off is if Marsh gets a really light sentence.”
Thomas said he does not understand why Marsh’s mother, Clara, has not also been charged with the financial crimes of theft by deception because she acted as the crematory’s chief financial officer.
Walker Sheriff Steve Wilson has known Marsh for at least six years and thought highly of him before the Noble incident, he said. Now Wilson is not so sure about Marsh’s character and considers Marsh to be a flight risk.
“He’s not the Ray Brent that I knew before Feb. 15,” Wilson said. “I was surprised then, and I don’t want to be surprised again.”
Wilson said he has traveled as far as Alaska to retrieve suspects who have jumped bond, adding “bond is always a gamble.”
After Franklin and Wilson expressed concern for Marsh’s safety outside of jail during the Thursday hearing and previous hearings, Bodiford said he could not legally consider community animosity even though he believes Marsh would be safer in jail.
“I do not think that I’m hear to tell Mr. Marsh what to do,” Bodiford said.
While on the stand, Marsh said that he doesn’t expect to be in any more danger than he was before the discovery at the crematory and does not fear public retaliation.
“I’m a black man that lives in the South in a poor community and in a leadership role,” Marsh said. “A lot of people don’t like that. A lot of people just don’t like me because I am me.”
“My belief is if the Lord is ready for me to go, He will take me when he is ready no matter what anyone here does,” Marsh said. “If someone feels that they need to take a chance and commit a crime and come after me, then that’s what they have to do and the Lord will protect me. If He’s not ready for me, then I will still be here and I will appear in court.”
Stan Porter, Eddie Upshaw, Rev. William Howard Stamper and other acquaintances testified as Marsh’s character witnesses and asked he be granted reasonable bond.
Bodiford included stringent stipulations that he said were more important than the money in his bond ruling.
Marsh said he was willing to accept any conditions issued by the court to get out of jail and promised to return to court whenever necessary, saying he would be in court “with bells on” and would “hop up and down on one leg” if so ordered.
Bodiford ruled Marsh must be monitored electronically while remaining under 24-hour house arrest at his parent’s house in Noble. Marsh will only be allowed to leave the residence to make two hospital trips per month for his knee injury and must then be under strict supervision of the sheriff; however, his physician and attorneys must visit Marsh at his parents’ residence.
The judge also restricted Marsh from any alcohol or illegal drug use. Wilson may randomly check Marsh’s presence at the house and conduct drug and alcohol detection tests at will, Bodiford said.
Bodiford granted bond by answering “no” to four questions regarding Marsh’s threat to others, the likelihood of committing more felonies, potential threat of intimidating witnesses and risk of flight.
Property bonds are based on 40 percent of the fair market value, Wilson said. For example, a property value totaling $375,000 would make up the required $150,000 Marsh needs.
Bodiford did not schedule another hearing in the criminal investigation, but plans to ask Walker Chief Magistrate Jerry Day to schedule a preliminary hearing for Marsh in the near future. Attorneys will meet regarding civil litigation on Monday, Aug. 26.
News editor Catherine Edgemon contributed to this article