ITHACA, N.Y.—The circumstances around Alan Godfrey’s killing are still frustratingly murky a year after his death, as the trial of his alleged murderer, William Marshall, inches closer to its tentatively scheduled start date in late summer.
Law enforcement officials have been tight-lipped about the circumstances surrounding the killing or the evidence used to indict Marshall, who pled not guilty to the crime at his indictment hearing in March. He was charged with second-degree murder, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon in the killing of Godfrey, a well-liked local community center worker.
But gleaning information from publicly available documents gives at least some insight into Marshall’s criminal past and present, including his work to help those who were still incarcerated when he was released from prison. Marshall’s connection to former Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick has also been the subject of some scrutiny since Marshall’s arrest, and Myrick answered some questions on the extent of their relationship for the first time speaking with The Ithaca Voice.
Marshall’s federal charges
In a separate but related case, Marshall was sentenced to 33 months in prison on federal drug and weapons possession charges on Thursday in federal court in Syracuse. Marshall was also ordered to forfeit over $36,000 that police stated was money made from selling drugs and seized during the arrest.
While Marshall’s federal weapon and drugs case is different from the murder charges and public documents from that case seldom mention Marshall’s murder charges, the sentencing memos in the federal case do offer a few details regarding the unclear circumstances surrounding Godfrey’s killing.
The memos, submitted to federal court in late May, state that Marshall’s federal charges stem from a search of his house on August 18, 2021 that was spurred by police’s suspicion he was involved in Godfrey’s death, which had taken place about a month earlier. Interestingly, it also notes that Marshall initially acquired that specific gun from that case, a Lorcin .380 semiautomatic pistol that was reported stolen elsewhere, due to “physical threats made against his handicapped brother.” The memo also states that the gun found in Marshall’s possession and the one thought to have been used in Godfrey’s murder do not match.
“Law enforcement readily acknowledges that the firearm and ammunition do not match the .45 caliber weapon and ammunition that were allegedly used in the [Godfrey] murder,” reads the defendant’s memo. “Mr. Marshall has emphatically denied any involvement in the murder, and that issue is more properly addressed in New York State Court.”
The sentencing memos refer to additional information contained in the pre-sentencing report, but those are sealed and seldom made public. It’s safe to assume those documents contain further information pertinent to Marshall’s murder trial, which is slated to begin in August.
Marshall’s previous history
Most of Marshall’s previous criminal history surrounds incidents that involve alcohol. His most significant conviction came in the early 2000s, when he was sentenced to several years on drug possession charges while a student at Tompkins Cortland Community College. Marshall received a 15 years-to-life sentence for three counts of first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance (among other lesser charges) after being arrested with a 33-ounce brick of cocaine in a residence hall in December 2001.
As drug laws began to soften during that decade, Marshall was eventually released early and, thanks to his educational endeavors while behind bars, was able to enroll at Cornell University.
Alcohol seemed to fuel Marshall’s run-ins with the law over the next few years. There’s an incident from June 2012 in which Marshall and a group of people were making too much noise, then an intoxicated Marshall becomes argumentative with an Ithaca Police Department officer and is taken into custody, according to a police report.
A second-degree harassment charge follows from June 2013, when Marshall allegedly struck someone several times during a confrontation outside of a bar, according to a police report. In another incident, Marshall was issued an open container violation—the police report states that someone with Marshall was arrested for becoming aggressive with police, but that Marshall was “compliant” throughout the interaction.
Sheriff Derek Osborne said that, having checked his office’s records, all of Marshall’s police interactions have come with IPD or other authorities, not the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office.
When Marshall was arrested on the initial federal drug charges, his attorney, prominent local lawyer Ray Schlather, solicited supportive letters from those with connections to Marshall during the years prior. They paint a glowing portrait of Marshall’s work with people who are incarcerated and urge leniency for his drug and weapons charges. The letters were submitted before Marshall’s indictment for Godfrey’s murder became public knowledge, but were still shared with The Ithaca Voice by Schlather with the authors’ permission.
“With William’s leadership and counsel I learned empathy, accountability, forgiveness and the importance of doing my best to make a positive impact on others,” reads one, signed by Darryl Epps Jr., who met Marshall while they were both incarcerated at Five Points Correctional Facility in Seneca County. “In the darkest of places, William guided me toward light and purpose. William is truly a good person and more than a friend I met in prison.”
Others detail Marshall’s involvement with supporting those who are incarcerated through connecting them to services or giving them guidance and being a positive voice in their lives.
Marshall’s friendship with Svante Myrick
As has become popular fodder for rumors and more in Ithaca, Marshall was indeed friends with former Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick stemming from their time together at Cornell University. Though they’re separated by several years of age, they ended up at school together once Marshall was released from incarceration and began to attend Cornell.
“I’ve known him socially since our time at Cornell,” Myrick said. “He was well known for his work to help the formerly incarcerated achieve higher education and a more purposeful life.”
Myrick stated in July that he was awakened by a phone call from Ithaca police the night that Godfrey was killed. After that, Myrick said once he discovered Marshall was a suspect, he recused himself from the case to avoid a perceived conflict of interest because of his friendship with Marshall. That was before the arrest was made in August on the federal charges after the raid.
“So as Mayor I would routinely be briefed on active investigations, and IPD would come to me to approve any unusual requests for resources related to an investigation,” Myrick said. “Because I was friends with the accused — and friendly with the victim — I thought it would be wise to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. This happens from time to time in law enforcement, say when an officer’s relative is accused of wrongdoing. So I recused myself from the investigation.”
The tangible form that took is Myrick telling the police to not brief him on any developments in the investigation, and to consult with then-Acting Mayor Deb Mohlenoff for any extraneous funding requests. Acting Ithaca Police Chief John Joly confirmed Myrick recused himself, and Mohlenoff said no funding requests were made to her, likely because none were necessary.
There have been persistent rumors since the arrest that Myrick and Marshall lived together, either at the time of the arrest or some period before that. Those have been pushed most frequently by Ithaca Crime, a local blog run by conservative activist Zachary Winn, who is now mounting a Republican mayoral campaign in Ithaca.
While those rumors have remained, Myrick says they are flatly untrue, but could stem from a period in late 2020 when he was exposed to COVID-19 and needed a place to quarantine. Myrick’s exposure and decision to quarantine was publicly acknowledged at the time, though he said he only stayed at a property owned by Marshall.
“I never lived with [Marshall],” Myrick said. “When I was exposed to COVID and needed an Airbnb for a few weeks, I reached out to him because I knew he operated a couple in town. He had an open BnB unit that he stopped renting out to tourists because of the pandemic, so it was available and I rented the place from him for one month. He did not live on or near the premises.”
Myrick supplied an Airbnb receipt that showed he stayed at the apartment during that period. His time there lasted about one month, he said, and he paid a pro-rated sum for the stay — which ended around the weekend that President Joe Biden was declared the victor in the 2020 presidential election, documented on Myrick’s Instagram. Myrick said he rented the downstairs unit while the upstairs unit sat uninhabited during that time period.
This is the same address where Marshall was arrested during a raid by police 10 months later — according to Myrick’s timeline, that would have been about nine months after he last stayed at the address.
Property records show that six days after Marshall’s arrest, he sold the property on North Plain Street to another LLC, called North Plain LLC, for $250,000. Business records confirm federal prosecutor’s statements that North Plain LLC is owned by Marshall’s uncle, James Marshall.