MADERA COUNTY – A North Fork couple accused of murder were in Madera Superior Court on Monday, Mar. 17, for the conclusion of their preliminary hearing on the charges.
Marc McMurrain, 35, and Jennifer McMurrain, 33, were arrested in early September 2013 after the body of Marc’s brother, Christopher Garrity, 29, was discover stuffed into a trash can on a property adjacent to where they were all living on Willow Creek Drive.
Also living in the mobile home were Marc and Christopher’s mother Janet Asten and her husband Steve, and the McMurrains’ four children, ranging in ages from 4 to 12, according to the testimony.
Deputy District Attorney Tracy Wise presented evidence that Marc McMurrain shot Garrity once in the chest and once in the face, in the early morning hours of Aug. 21, 2013, and that Jennifer McMurrain was in the home at the time and helped to dispose of the body.
According to testimony from detectives, Garrity’s badly decomposed body was found in a 50 gallon trash can on the banks of the creek behind their home.
Garrity had been reported missing by his mother on Aug. 21 when she and her husband returned from an overnight stay in Oakhurst and couldn’t find him. The McMurrains told investigators that Garrity has just “flipped out” and run off, and they didn’t know where he was.
Sheriff’s detectives had been working the case for about two weeks when they visited the suspects’ residence on Sept. 5, and found what they suspected to be blood splatters on the walls of Garrity’s bedroom. After a presumptive test was conducted and came back positive for human blood, Marc McMurrain was arrested on suspicion of murder. The home was then secured by deputies and a search warrant obtained for the property.
When investigators returned the next morning to process the scene, a neighbor directed them to a trash can emitting a foul odor down by Willow Creek. That’s when they made the grizzly discovery, and took Jennifer McMurrain into custody, along with Garrity’s laptop.
At the hearing, there was testimony about her ever-changing stories, and that there is video evidence of the alleged crime.
The defendants have been behind bars since their arrests, Marc held on $2 million bond, and Jennifer on $1 million.
After hearing the evidence on Monday, Judge Mitchell Rigby bound both defendants over for trial on murder charges. Both were also held to answer on four counts each of child endangerment.
In presenting her case for charges of child endangerment, Deputy D.A. Wise argued that the children could have been injured during the shooting.
“It’s only by luck that they weren’t shot,” said Wise. “They could have heard the loud noise and went to check things out and saw what their parents were doing.”
Wise also presented evidence that even before the alleged crime, the children were endangered by the conditions in which they lived.
She called two detectives who testified that the property was littered with mounds of trash and debris, broken glass, sharp rusty metal, rotting food and garbage. Both investigators testified that there was feces everywhere, including inside the house where children’s toys were laying among the fecal matter, which was also smeared on the walls.
“Words can’t describe the stench inside that house,” Wise told the judge, who found that sufficient evidence had been presented to support the charges.
Marc McMurrain was also charged with the special allegations of using a firearm in the commission of a felony, and discharging a firearm causing great bodily harm or death.
Jennifer McMurrain was also charged as an accessory to the murder.
Both defendants will be back in court on Mar. 28 to be arraigned on the charges.