This undated photo provided by the Baldwin Sheriff's Office shows Marcus Lillard. Lillard is charged with murder in the death of a University of Georgia professor at a central Georgia home. (Photo: Baldwin Sheriff's Office)
A University of Georgia professor was found dead over the weekend in what authorities are describing as a “bizarre” case involving an alleged covered-up murder.
Police arrested the professor’s boyfriend, Marcus Lillard, but the other man at the scene of the crime killed himself before investigators could finish questioning him.
The man who shot himself, Sydney Clark Heindel, called 911 around 1 a.m. Sunday to report the professor was unresponsive after going underwater in a hot tub at his Milledgeville home, according to a Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office incident report.
Deputies found Marianne Clopton Shockley bleeding heavily from a head injury, unresponsive and naked. Heindel and Lillard, both also naked, were performing CPR on the woman, but medical personnel declared her dead shortly after arriving.
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Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee said Monday deputies knew the death wasn’t a pure drowning incident because of the men’s demeanor and blood found at the scene, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“It’s one of the strangest cases that we’ve ever worked,” Massee said. “I don’t know how to explain this to people who are not in our business, but when we first arrived at the crime scene, there was something about it that was not right, and it was just kind of a bizarre, different kind of case.”
Deputies separated the men, putting Lillard in the back of a patrol car and Heindel on his front porch. But when a deputy went to ask Heindel a question, he was gone. Then the deputy heard a “loud but muffled noise,” according to the report, and found Heindel inside the master bedroom dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Authorities on Monday charged Lillard, 41, with murder, aggravated assault and concealing the death of another.
Lillard told deputies he returned from gathering firewood in the woods when he found the professor passed out in the hot tub, according to the report. A deputy noted there was already a large pile of firewood near the fire pit near the pool and it seemed odd to gather more because it rained heavily earlier in the day.
Before his death, Heindel told authorities he had been swimming in the other end of the pool while Shockley was in the hot tub, but rushed to her once Lillard found her unresponsive. Lillard said he fell while carrying his girlfriend, causing her head injury.
The men told police she seemed to be breathing faintly and didn’t call 911 until 45 minutes later because they thought she was regaining consciousness.
Shockley, 43, was a professor of entomology at the University of Georgia.
“On behalf of the university, I’d like to express our deepest sympathy to the family, students and colleagues of Dr. Marianne Shockley,” university spokesman Greg Trevor said in an email.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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