Marshall assault trial begins in Wrangell


Greg Knight

Steve Marshall left, speaks with members of his family before the start of his felony assault trial in Wrangell. A jury was seated on Tuesday morning, with deliberations expected to run through the end of this week.

The jury trial of former resident Steve Marshall for felony charges related to an alleged 2011 sexual assault began this week in Wrangell’s First District Court.

Marshall, 54, was arrested on Dec. 7, 2011 at his residence in the Bloom Trailer Court after police responded to an argument between Marshall and his former girlfriend, Sonja Turner.

Court documents allege that Marshall, who was indicted by a grand jury on seven charges, including sexual assault and assault in the first degree, is alleged to have raped, strangled and hit Turner, as well as threatening her with a machete, resulting in her hospitalization at Wrangell Medical Center.

Jury selection began on Monday morning, with the panel of 11 jurors and no alternates being selected by the end of the day. Alaska State law requires a panel of 12 jurors and the alternate and the selection process continued on to Tuesday morning.

More than 20 prospective jurors were released from potential service for a variety of reasons, including personal relationships with Wrangell Police Department officers involved in the investigation.

Judge Carey also admonished the potential jurors and those already seated not to read any Wrangell Sentinel back issues which have covered the case since it was filed in 2011.

By 10 a.m. Tuesday morning all jurors and the alternate were seated.

After selection was completed, the trial began in earnest when District Attorney Jean Seaton called Wrangell Medical Center nurse Beth Kuehn as her first witness in the case, asking her about her experience in treating Turner.

Seaton’s line of questioning dealt with what Kuehn observed that night in the hospital.

In her testimony, Kuehn stated that Turner’s injuries were consistent with forcible sexual contact based on an examination performed by both Kuehn and former WMC physician Dr. Corey Meyer. Heiser fought back against Kuehn’s opinion, however, asking if evidence of a so-called “rape kit,” or sexual assault forensic evaluation tool, was used.

Kuehn conceded that no such test was performed on Turner because she declined to take a test or have photos taken of an area of her body alleged to show such an assault may have happened.

Kuehn did present a number of photos that had been taken of Turner’s torso, face and limbs showing what the prosecution called “strangulation marks,” “bruising,” “open wounds,” and other marks “consistent with an assault.”

The prosecution also called Dr. Angelia Trujillo of the University of Alaska at Anchorage as an expert witness in strangulation, forensic sexual assault investigations, and offensive and defensive wounds.

Trujillo claimed that, in her opinion, the photos she reviewed showed that Turner suffered defensive wounds on the night of Dec. 7, 2011, and also confirmed that Turner personally declined to have a rape kit performed that night.

Heiser countered Trujillo’s statements by asking if wounds Marshall was documented as suffering after being taken into custody could be considered as “defensive wounds” inflicted by Turner.

“Yes,” Trujillo said.

Turner was scheduled to take the witness stand on Wednesday morning. The trial is set to last until this Friday.

Marshall is also facing charges out of Ketchikan for allegedly attempting to solicit the murder of Turner from a jail cell at Ketchikan Correctional Center.

The new charge was filed Dec. 14 after a Ketchikan Grand Jury released a second indictment accusing Marshall of the crime. According to District Attorney Jean Seaton, Marshall is alleged to have asked a former cellmate at Ketchikan Correctional Center to kill the victim.

The trial for the solicitation charge is set for September in First District Court.


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