The Marcus Fiesel Story

When I started doing this blog my intention was to discuss cases that have intrigued me in one way or another.  I had started with those that I was fairly familiar with so try and get it up and running off the ground.  All of the cases have involved murder in some way or another, but not a lot of reoccurring themes.  And then I did the Sylvia Likens case.  The only thing that Sylvia's story compared to the others was it was a case in which I knew a lot about before coming here to blog about it.  

While discussing Sylvia's case on a message board I was reminded of the Shanda Sharer case, also a torture-murder case, and also in Indiana. Then there was Aiyana Gauvin, yet another case of a child who was tortured and murdered, once again, in Indiana.  In the mean time a friend, who half jokingly, let me know my latest theme of blogs were giving her nightmares showed me websites talking about the case of Marcus Fiesel.  This case is similar in sorts to the last few previous cases as it involves the abuse of a child. It is dissimilar however in the sense that this was a case that I had to try and research because I had never heard of the case.  By doing this case it has become my fourth case in a row of a child who has been murdered, abused and tortured.  I wonder if this is now becoming the theme of the blog.  It is not that I am necessarily seeking these cases out per se, it just appears these are cases that I feel should not be forgotten.

The case of Marcus Fiesel is a particularly sad one. His story takes place in Middletown, Ohio, near Cincinnati. He was born in June 2002 to a single mother who had an older boy.  His mother Donna Fiesel Trevino also had a daughter that was two years younger than Marcus.  Aside from information that led to Donna having her children removed from her home little else is really known about the situation. By most accounts all three children had different fathers and most reports say that none of the fathers were involved with the children.  However, in September 2005 there was a report made to CPS involving some injuries to Marcus and it was alleged that his mothers boyfriend, the father of her youngest child was responsible for spanking Marcus and leaving bruises.  The children were removed from her care for just over a month.  The fact that she had another last name indicates she was married at some point (Fiesel is her maiden name) but I have found no information on this.  

Most reports say that Marcus was autistic, was developmentally delayed and had ADHD.  This has been widely reported but I have been unable to confirm if has ever officially diagnosed with these issues or not.  Many of the reports came from friends and family of Trevino who have used these claims to indicate why Trevino has issues with controlling Marcus.  I am not going to tell you that he was not autistic, as he very well may have been and those reports may be true.  However, I think it could have been just as likely an excuse given in attempts to explain her neglectful parenting. This issue will be addressed again later as to his diagnosis or lack there of could likely have been of importance later on.

The police were called several times to Trevino's home.  Many times it was due to domestic violence issues. It was reported that when Marcus was about one years old he lived in a home with Trevino that "reeked" of mold and feces. They were also called in January of 2006 when Marcus fell out of a 2nd story window.  He cut his chin and required stitches.  This was investigated at the time and there were reports that there were feces on the floor and wall of his room and only a mattress on the floor provided for his care.  There was also a gate basically to keep him maintained in his room.  In April of 2006 Marcus was found wandering alone and was nearly hit by a car.  At this point Trevino stated to authorities that she could not care for her children and turned them over to the state.

On May 5, 2006 Marcus was placed in the home of Liz and David Carroll.  They had been approved by a non-for profit "faith-based" private foster care placement center called Lifeway for Youth. The company had worked closely with the county CPS agency.  What the county did not know was that Lifeway was untruthful in their process of how they trained foster parents, and many other alleged things, including how often they checked on the placed children. This is also where the fact that Marcus' diagnosis comes back into play.  Regardless if he was autistic, he was developmentally delayed and functioned on the level of a 12-18 month old child.  He would have been a special needs child that needed extra care and in essence means any one caring for him should have been especially evaluated.

In June, Marcus turned four and Trevino went to court.  At this time she had reportedly decided to attempt to recover her older son and her daughter but had decided to terminate her rights to Marcus and stop contact with him. I have been unable to confirm whether she had made any good efforts in her attempts with her other children or if this was an empty statement to court.  Her case was continued until September.

Also in June, David Carroll was arrested for domestic violence. The charges were dropped.  He did not report this to Lifeway as he was supposedly required to.  At some point, whether it was while Marcus was in the home or before, David and Liz Carroll had separated.  Reportedly David said he did not want to live in a home with foster children (Marcus was one of two).  He returned home .... bringing a girlfriend, Amy Baker with him who preceded to live with David and Liz.

On August 15, 2006 Liz reported Marcus missing.  She stated to police that she had taken her son, another foster son, Marcus and a child she was babysitting to the park.  She claims she had passed out due to an issue with a heart condition she had and that when she awoke Marcus was gone.  The "heart condition" became another issue that put Lifeway in a bad light as to if it was known or investigated. It was also discovered much later that David was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder,another issue that should have disqualified the Carrolls to be foster parents 

For the next few days large scale searches were done for Marcus.  However, it is obvious that the police were soon headed in a new direction as they ended the searches fairly quickly. A week later Liz made a public plea for the return of Marcum but had also stated that David had failed a lie detector examination.  

I did a lot of looking around and I never could find out for sure how the real story got out.  It appears that it likely came from Amy Baker who turned states evidence for immunity in Ohio.  On August 28th a grand jury was called and David and Liz were indicted and were later arrested on charges of involuntary manslaughter and endangering children with David having an extra charge of gross abuse of a corpse.

What was discovered is that on Friday August 4, 2006 Marcus was wrapped in a blanket,the blanket was wrapped in tape and he was placed inside a closet without food or water. David, Liz and Amy then proceeded to leave for a family reunion in Kentucky for the weekend.  Prosecutors would later state Marcus was treated worse than their dog, especially considering the dog went to the reunion.  When they returned on the 6th they found Marcus had died.  Marcus and Amy took his body to an abandoned area they knew where a house had burned in the 1960's.  All that remained was the chimney. They repeatedly burned the body.  They then gathered apparently all they could find or see (essentially leaving small pieces of clothing and 18 very small bone fragments) and dumped the remains in the Ohio River. 

It has been reported that on August 10th a social worker showed up at the home for a check on Marcus.  They were told he was sick and for whatever reason he was not looked at.  In reality he was dead.  

A few remains were recovered at the chimney and were tested to be positively Marcus' remains.  There was obviously no way to prove cause of death but it was speculated that he died from the heat within the closet (and the wrappings) as opposed to dehydration or starvation.

In the end both Liz and David Carroll initially pled not guilty.  Liz went to trial, was found guilty of murder by jury on February 21, 2007 and was sentenced to 54 years to life.  David took a plea bargain on February 26, 2007 and received 16 years to life.

Amy Baker?  Well now she was the interesting one.  As stated above the state of Ohio gave her immunity.  However, Kentucky determined that they held jurisdiction over the Ohio River where the remains were dumped.  They fought to charge her for tampering with evidence as she admitted helping dispose of the body.  For what ever reason all charges were dropped in 2008.

While I would be the absolute last person to tell anyone that this was not a vicious, malicious and horrible crime for me almost the most infuriating part, obviously aside from this innocent child's murder happened after and it was not by his perpetrators.  It was by his biological mother.

Within just a few days she was in court insuring she had the right to sue.  Yes, that's right.  Remember, she had stopped contact with this child and had decided to give up her parental rights. Once the court maintained she had the right to sue she filed a $5 million law suit.  She filed against the county, the Carroll's, Amy Baker and Lifeway among others.  The prosecutor pointed out that if she would have done her job as a parent it would not have happened and that the only person who was ever in charge of Marcus' care who was not mentioned in the lawsuit was herself.  

In February 2007 Trevino's suit was settled for just over $200,000.  The trick was however that Trevino did not receive money.  The money technically went to the care of her children.  As long as they did not live with her it went to the  foster parents and if she were to ever regain custody of them she would have to show receipts for everything she bought and there would be a trust officer involved.  I was never able to determine if she has ever regained custody of her children.  Something tells me that she never really tried.

Lifeway had their licensed revoked and are no longer allowed to be involved in fostering children.

There was also a large issue surrounding the remains that were recovered.  The prosecutor claims that Trevino refused to accept the offer by the county for the burial and then refused to claim the remains.  He publicly lashed out at her.  The coroner however, has said the remains had not been released by law by that time.

The chimney in which David Carroll and Amy Baker took Marcus' body has been torn down and an area has been cleared for a memorial.  There has been a debate on how much impact Marcus' death had on changes involving foster children...



    story by news 5 (Cincinnati NBC)

    She gave up all legal rights in May of 2007. It was ruled in FEBRUARY 2007 that she would not get a penny of the $206,000.

    One correction:: It was DAVID and AMY who burned and disposed of the body of MARCUS.... just a typo in that paragraph, I think.

    Still looking, but there was another social work visit, where the case worker was told he "wasnt home". This was before his death, but allegedly he would have been in poor and bruised condition. This made a total of 2 times that a caseworker came to perform a welfare check, neither of which the worker laid eyes on him. The second one, you noted, was actually after he had passed.... yet before the scene at the park.

    Will post link when I find about caseworker conduct.


    Timeline, according to Cinci Enquirer

    Ok, I was wrong... they WERE seeing Marcus weekly (supposedly), because of his special needs. The caseworker SAW Marcus on 8/3, but David Carroll told police that Marcus was last seen by his caseworker on 8/10 (the time she was told Marcus was sick, but was really already dead). I am gonna keep looking though, because I swear that, after a complete case audit, it was found Marcus was reported to be seen and evaluated in his new home weekly, but on some occasions was not really seen. Reports were marked as well-visits, "due to caseworker load". Still looking....

  3. oh ya.... and Lifeway did go out of business.... briefly.... it re-opened as "Benchmark", doing the same kind of business and foster family "training".

  4. Yeah, I knew in Feb. she was basically not getting the money but they said that she would get it for the care of the children... if she regained them. Interesting, and btw I called it, that she soon gave up any interest in the remaining children. :)

    As for the correction, not sure where you saw that but I did say that David and Amy that took him to the abandoned chimney, did I say it differently somewhere else?

    I don't give a lot of credence on any record really of any social worker showing up since they were all from Lifeway and too much was found out about their practices later. I put in the one that was supposedly documented for the 10th only because they speculated that they knew another would be scheduled and they had to come up with a story, hence 5 days later he's reported missing.

    I saw somewhere they supposedly made 23 visits from May until August but like I said above, I am not sure I am buying it. It's easy to SAY they were there... did you read the Aiyana Gauvin case? A cop said he went there too and reported he'd seen her... he hadn't, but the paperwork he wrote out said he had.

  5. You have got to be kidding me about Lifeway. Well I hope like hell they changed their practices!!!

  6. Just an FYI, but Marcus was not autistic. He had fetal alcohol syndrome. During the first press conference that Liz Carroll gave, she said that he had autism, the media reported it as such, and it has since become the gospel truth. However, reports published in The Cincinnati Enquirer from Lifeway Youth Services say clearly that he was being evaluated at Cincinnati's Children's Hospital for FAS. Not to be in any way disrespectful of the little guy, but his facial features would reaffirm a Fetal Alcohol Syndrome diagnosis.

    1. He definitely has classic facial features of FAS.

  7. This company is now operating Nationwide under the Name Benchmark Family Services and putting unknowledgable people at the helm to oversee the day to day operations.

  8. I'm the author of Invisible Kids: Marcus Fiesel's Legacy. Marcus was born June 24, 2003 and was 3 when he died, not four. Donna Trevino was developmentally delayed and struggled with managing Marcus and keeping him safe. She just couldn't do it. I extensively researched this case and wrote this book to educate people about the crises facing young foster children and empower them to help. We must continue to bring good from Marcus' horrific death.

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  11. Lifeway is now Benchmark. They are still not operating in a way that keeps children safe. I know from experience. I have a special needs child. Getting respite for this child is nearly impossible. I have requested respite on several occasions and they can never get it for me. It should be mandatory if a parent needs respite on any occasion it should be provided. Especially when you have a child with special needs. It would not surprise me if the foster parents requested respite and Lifeway did not give it them. Not that this is an excuse for their horrible actions but this place is a joke and should not be able to place children in any state.

    1. So you, yourself, have a special needs child of your own? Or do you mean you fostering a special needs child? And are you saying that you've requested respite for yourself from this shady Lifeway/Benchmark organization...? As in, "I need a break, please come take this kid off my hands for awhile!"...???

      If that's incorrect please correct me by all means. But if it is correct ... Just when did parents become so damn lazy and too delicate to deal with the pressures and stresses of raising children?? Especially foster children, many of whom are IN the foster care system BECAUSE of special needs and/or consistent and/or severe abuse in their family home, something that most middle schoolers would more than likely be able to comprehend.

      I often wonder what motivates some people to apply to be foster parents of children who are very often damaged in some way or another, if these foster parents are so delicate as to be significantly affected by the stresses involved in such an enormous and far-reaching responsibility so as to require "respite" from the children???

      I've read numerous articles and books over the past thirty years in which abuses and murders took place at the hands of foster parents, and it never ceases to astound me how ill-prepared, untrained, unqualified and in it for absolutely the wrong reason (money, usually).

      Parenting is not at all easy when it's a parent raising their own biological child. Multiply that by about a hundred times when it comes to parenting a foster child.

      It's such a massively critical, life-altering and hugely awesome undertaking to raise any child. As parents, we have the responsibility to shape actual human beings into what they are to become as adults, how they will see themselves, how they will function independently, how they will impact the world around them, in what ways will their existence contribute to the society in which they will live, work and participate. As parents, we are contributing toward the future of this planet.

      How completely mind boggling it is to me that so many people can give such little regard to that fact; that so many people enter the fostering system for free state money; and that so many people who've so horribly warped their children and/or foster children so badly so that it's undeniable that had they been better parents who actually considered these important issues prior to conceiving children, or applying to be foster parents, and instead chosen to be better, more selfless parents, or chosen to remain childless, so many needless tragedies could have been avoided.

      Just because a woman has a functional uterus and access to a functional penis, does not mean that pregnancy must take place, or childbirth for that matter. And just because money is tight does not mean that becoming a foster parent is a good idea, especially when it's just for the free state money, while they hide, imprison, abuse and dismiss the current and potential value of a human being. It's beyond deplorable; it's beyond depraved; it's beyond inhumane.

      I had two children. The only "respite" I got was provided in the way of grandparents, friends and hired babysitters for the occasional mommy-daddy date night or the once annually 4-day mom-dad only vacation. I certainly never expected any government agency to step in and take over my duties that were mine due to choices I made.

      If you need an organization or government agency to step in and give you a break.... You don't need to be a parent---natural, adoptive, step, or foster parent---to any child on earth. That's just the most ridiculous and selfish thing I've ever seen regarding parenting. The collective human IQ is definitely deteriorating and devolving, no doubt!

      Grow up Buttercup, it's not at all about you when kids are involved. SMFH

    2. You do realize that not every parent has the access to babysitters, grandparents and certainly not even a 4 day mommy-daddy vacation! I didn't even know parents could do that anymore!
      I have a chukd with autism who is much like Marcus. He is 3 years old and has the development of a 12 month old. He is angry, throws 20 minute fits, hits, screams, etc. Mostly because there is no reasoning with a 12 month old, which is basically how old my son is.
      I have never heard of the government giving parents a break, but as a mother of 3, one being autistic, I think it is great that the government offers this.
      This isn't like your 2 children who have their occasional outlashes and good and bad days. This is talking about a parent of a disabled child that is equivalent to you have 3 more on top of your 2 you already have. It is literally a day in, day out job. I wake up at 6am everyday with my children, and my autistic child (no matter how early he wakes up) stays up until 1-2am and I am up with my son for school at 6am. Its a sacrifice I made as a parent to devote my life to them, but I am human. And I have days where I lock myself and the bathroom and tell my husband how awful I am for feeling that I need a break and how I am a horrible mother for it. But his response is, "You are human! And you wouldn't be a mother if you didn't never a break. That just means you are putting in that much work to raise our children."
      I guess all I can say is.. How dare you judge this woman and mother when you have yet to walk a day in her shoes. Until you fully understand what it takes to care for a mentally disabled child, or a child with autism, I suggest you keep your ignorant comments to yourself. That is not an insult. Ignorance comes from speaking without knowledge, and that my dear, is exactly what you are doing.

  12. The owner/author of this blog should seriously consider taking some English, spelling and grammar refresher courses. This writing style is atrocious, with it's many errors, mixed tenses, poor researching, ideas and thoughts difficult to comprehend by the reader because they are so badly articulated.

    If you're going to do something, you should strive to do it well. Otherwise don't bother.

  13. hello,
    I lived in Anderson Township (where the foster mom "passes out" and "lost" him. I was very young when this happened, but I was one of the kids who went searching for him at the park (which was a 10 mnt walk from my house). Now I am in college, and I am doing a research project on this case as it is very interesting to me. could you share the sources you used when researching this case? I would really appreciate it! thanks so much

  14. hello! I grew up in Anderson Twp (where the foster mom pretended to pass out and lose M), and I was just a few years older than M when this happened. I remember it very well, and I was even on one of the search parties in the park. Now, I am in college and I am writing a research paper on this case, as it is something very close to home for me I want to learn more about. Could you please share what resources you used while learning about this case? Also, I would love to see if you have any theories about this case, and just in general talk to you about this. I would greatly appreciate any help with this project! Thankyou so much!

    1. Emily I get everything for my blogs in general from extensive searches on the Internet and then weeding through the information to figure out if it's all correct, or at least I try. In general, unless I have a note telling me otherwise, when I start my research I almost always simply put in the name of the person that is in my list "and murder." From time to time, and I cannot say which cases they are, I will do other searches of people or places related. In this case I may have searched the Ohio DFC but I cannot say for sure. I also often check the Department of Corrections websites in the state. It has been a while since I have done this story so I don't remember each source but the best source is generally any appeals papers if they apply in this case. An appeal gives a good short story of what happened and the legal aspects.

    2. thanks! I will look in these areas for more information! I appreciate you responding to me :)


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