As the mother of boys I have always been more critical of females. Especially those teenage girls who wanted to date my sons, but that's what Mama's are supposed to do... right?? I have never done well with large groups of women either. Some are just full of drama and even a few are down right evil. However, I am unsure that the word “evil” can even come close to describing Rebecca Braswell and her friend, or was she lover, Shannon Butler.
Rebecca Braswell met John Marmo Jr. when they were both stated in Italy while serving in the military in 2001. Despite strict rules about fraternizing the two were able to keep their relationship a bit of a secret. Well, that is until Rebecca got pregnant. So the two decided to get married in 2002. Their daughter was born in February of 2003. Soon the couple was back the states, stationed in California but John's military career ended while Rebecca applied for and became a member of the elite Navy Seabees. The marriage began to deteriorate and by early 2004 Rebecca had filed for divorce. She claimed abuse and filed for a restraining order. For his part John had become the primary caregiver of his daughter and began fighting for custody and did not move further than next door. At some point friends say that Rebecca indicated she was willing to reconcile and offered for John to come back home. Within 24 hours the couple was fighting again and Rebecca called the police and he was arrested for violating the restraining order. Most believe the reconciliation was a lie just to get him to violate the RO and give her an edge on custody. It did just that. After spending about ten days in jail when John got out he moved in with a friend who lived off base. The divorce was final in June of 2004 with Rebecca having primary custody of their daughter but custody exchanges were a battle. After several months and many incidences of police being involved and accusations flying the courts ordered that the exchanges take place at the police department.
It was not long after the divorce was final that her friend, Shannon Butler moved into her home with her. Some say they were just friends while other reports claim that they were lovers. Whatever they were they began hatching a plan to get even with John Marmo and started recruiting fellow Seabees to help. At one point Shannon Butler had shown up to duty with a black eye and marks on her. She would tell fellow workers, Matthew Toerner and Seth Hardy that the injury had come from Marmo and that she feared for herself, Rebecca and Rebecca's daughter. The two men believed Butler's story and vowed to help protect the women.
At some point Marmo had gone to the police station when he found a propane bottle under his car and told them he believed his ex-wife was attempting to kill him. While it appears the police talked to Braswell and Butler it also seems that they believed the women when they stated it was Marmo who was the danger. They really did not have any evidence against Marmo though so they could not do anything. It just seems that these two “charming” women had convinced officers that they were the victims, not Marmo.
Then on the morning of December 1, 2006 while walking to his vehicle John Marmo Jr. was shot multiple times and killed outside his Carmarillo California home. Everyone close to John began pointing fingers toward Rebecca. Now things were serious and investigators dug much deeper than they had before. One has to wonder if this was because now they had to wonder if their belief that Marmo was not truly in danger when he had gone to the station months earlier was wrong.
The two women were questioned by police and while Shannon Butler almost immediately seemed to lawyer up and say nothing, Rebecca had to give the appearance of cooperation, she talked but said nothing to implicate herself or anyone else. Investigators talked to several people. At some point they got some information about two other Navy Seabeas, Seth Hardy and Matthew Toerner. After interviewing Seth investigators had a little more information but not enough to make arrests. They would learn that at some point Shannon Butler had come to the two men claiming that John Marmo had beat her up and she feared not just for herself but for Rebecca and her child. Shannon had the black eye to back up her claims. She told the men that Marmo was stalking the women and she was certain he would kill one of them. Hardy would admit that he had planted propane canisters under Marmo's car on two occasions prior to the murder. Toerner would apparently admit to nothing. But, due to Hardy's confession they knew that Shannon Butler was likely involved in the murder, and highly suspected it was Rebecca pulling the strings to the whole thing.
One of the people investigators interviewed was a man named Ivan Condit. I was a bit confused as to how exactly he fit into this story other than the fact that he talked to Rebecca about getting rid of the gun. Investigators got him to set up a time and location for that disposal with Rebecca thinking they could get her then. They staked out the area but it was not Rebecca who went to the location, but Shannon. It was then, five days after Marmo's murder that they would arrest Shannon Butler. Despite still not really talking to the investigators after her arrest the police arrested Rebecca Braswell. Soon after her arrest Rebecca finally began talking. The only problem was she was not telling the truth and put all the blame on Shannon Butler. One she learned of this Butler began telling the real story.
Butler would admit to the police that she had recruited both Seth Hardy and Matthew Toerner to help her get rid of John Marmo but that the plan had all been Rebecca's from the start. She would tell investigators that not only had she and Toerner gone outside Marmo's home on the morning of his murder to wait for him to emerge from the house but that the black eye she had displayed to the two men to get them to help her had come from Rebecca purposely hitting her so she could convince them.
While Toerner would apparently admit his role in the murder and say he had done so to protect the women after hearing their stories of abuse, he would ultimately plead not guilt in court. Both Hardy and Butler would ultimately plead guilty for their crimes. Hard would get a sentence of twelve years to life for attempted murder and Butler would receive twenty-five years to life for the first degree murder of John Marmo. After a joint trial both Matthew Toerner and Rebecca Braswell would be found guilty on February 5, 2009 on counts of first degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and lying in wait. They would both receive sentences of life without parole.
While at her trial Rebecca would claim that she was not in on the plot to have her ex husband killed prosecutors were able to show text messages through her phone that proved differently. The prosecutors would claim that while obviously none of the participants were innocent for their roles, Rebecca Braswell was a sociopath who had manipulated and convinced the others to do her dirty deeds. Whether Butler believed that Marmo was an actual danger is questionable since she help concoct stories to recruit Toerner and Hardy, it is clear the two men believed the stories the women told. Sadly Shannon Butler got a plea deal for her participation but it is questionable as to if Rebecca would have been held accountable for her actions without Butler's cooperation.
While I am sure that Marmo is not necessarily as innocent as is often portrayed his death not only was callus and vicious, it was unnecessary. Much too often criminals think they are above the law or think they can manipulate the system and others to do things for them so they can simply move on with their lives as if nothing happened. I agree that more often than I would like there are investigators who are convinced that they have the right person, only later to discover they are wrong, and sometimes that realization (if it comes at all) comes at a high price of freedom for an innocent person. However, I am grateful for those who see the signs of manipulation and are immune.