David Marx said his statements in a recorded confession were false, but a jury did not buy it.
Sitting on the witness stand Thursday in an Orleans Parish courtroom, Marx, a former Navy chief petty officer, testified that he was coerced into admitting he killed his wife inside the couple’s Algiers home 21/2 years ago by shooting her with a crossbow powerful enough to send an arrow down a football field in one second.
A Criminal District Court jury, however, did not believe his claims that the admission was forced, and after 90 minutes of deliberations, it found Marx, 46, guilty of second-degree murder. The conviction means he will spend the rest of his life in prison with no chance of parole.
Mary Marx, 51, was killed on May 25, 2011, when she walked into her home and was met by David Marx, who was in the kitchen, holding the crossbow, prosecutors said.
Marx, they said, fired one arrow at his estranged wife, severing her spine and causing instant paralysis. He reloaded the weapon after she fell on the floor of their son’s bedroom and fired another arrow, this time at her face.
The coroner initially thought she had been stabbed to death with an ink pen before an autopsy found arrows caused the death.
Police found the home ransacked but with nothing valuable missing. The door was locked, and there were no signs of forced entry.
Neither New Orleans homicide detective Barret Morton nor naval investigators could contact Marx for many hours after his wife’s death. When Morton did get in touch with him a day later, Marx, who was stationed in Norfolk, Va., at the time, did not ask how his wife was killed, raising suspicion about his involvement.
Marx, who said he did not know where his son was at the time, testified that NCIS investigators and later Morton coerced him into admitting his guilt by saying the boy would be taken care of if he made a confession.
“I felt very intimidated, shocked and dismayed. I was married to her for 23 years. I loved the woman,” Marx told the jury as he slowly rocked back and forth in the witness chair. “They (investigators) backed me up into a corner.”
Prosecutors said Marx killed his wife — something he’d planned for a month — because he wanted to avoid paying her half of his pension if they got divorced. He had a girlfriend in Virginia and was still supporting Mary Marx and their son in New Orleans. David Marx also did not approve of medication his wife had their son taking.
“He did it for the money, and he did it to be with (his girlfriend) Michele Conry,” Assistant District Attorney Fran Bridges told the jury during closing arguments.
Marx first told investigators he and Conry had taken a trip to Pensacola, Fla., and that he was there when the killing happened.
That alibi changed during his interviews with detectives, however. First, Marx said, he was never in New Orleans at the time of the murder. Later, after he learned that witnesses said they had seen him wandering the neighborhood, caked in mud from hiding under his home until his wife and son left in the morning, he said he had come to the city because he felt nostalgic.
Marx’s defense attorneys said the witness identifications were just part of the problem with the prosecution’s case.
At least one witness said the man he saw had a mustache and long hair, attorney Frank DeSalvo said during closing arguments. Marx is clean-shaven and has a military-style haircut. Witnesses also did not see the man carrying a crossbow.
NCIS investigators are trained to extract confessions, DeSalvo said, leading him to describe the prosecution’s arguments as a “house of cards” built on a “foundation of sand.”
Marx told police that when his wife saw him standing in their home with the crossbow aimed at her, she looked at him as if he was “the devil.”
“His wife looked at him like she had seen Satan,” Bridges told the jury before addressing Marx. “She did, sir. She saw you.”