Death Penalty Case Has Local Ties

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The shocking death of a man in Wood County happened nearly 25 years ago. William Wickline was charged with the murder. Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block Tuesday morning's execution of Wickline for a 20-year-old Columbus murder.

On the whole, Wood County doesn't have a lot of murders, so the death of Charles Morgan Marsh in the fall of 1979 was particularly gruesome, especially for a Wood County deputy with two years on the force who was experiencing his first murder case.

"I was the first one in the door," says Charlie Johnson, now Chief Deputy for the Wood County Sheriff's Department. "I went through the door, doing a sweep through the room like we were taught. I went in, and that's when we discovered the decapitated body."

The dismembered body of Marsh, a South Carolina man, was found in this home off Route 47. At the time, the murder was believed to be tied to an area drug ring.

"I think the long and the short of it was that there was a message sent, and it was a drug deal gone bad," Johnson says.

It wasn't until a similar case in Columbus came to the attention of local investigators nearly five years later, that investigators were able to link the Marsh murder to William Dean Wickline. Wickline was already serving time in prison for lesser offenses.

"At the time," Trooper Russ Miller said in 1984, "the initial investigation revealed (Marsh) died of strangulation, and then was decapitated."

Chief Deputy Johnson says the Marsh Murder case was a first for this area. It was the first time area law enforcement agencies joined forces on a single investigation.

"Every agency in this county had some kind of role, following up on a lead, or giving some people up to help out in the investigation," Johnson recalls. "That was an indication that the task force was a good thing to have."

Wickline was sentenced to death in 1985 for killing Peggy Lerch. He was sentenced to life in prison for the slaying of Lerch's husband, Christopher.