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Suspect in fatal carjacking case to undergo evaluation

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit — A 17-year-old suspect facing murder and carjacking charges was ordered Friday to undergo a competency evaluation before his case can proceed.

Ralph Marshall is accused of carjacking and killing Erica Garner, 43, a Detroit mother who was waiting to pick up her son from basketball practice on the east side before she was fatally shot Jan. 27.

Marshall faces charges of felony murder, carjacking and felony firearm. He is due back in court May 5 for a mental competency hearing.

The evaluation by the Center for Forensic Psychiatry will try to determine if Marshall is competent to stand trial, understands his Miranda rights and faces criminal responsibility for his actions if found guilty. He’ll also undergo an independent evaluation requested by his lawyer, David Cripps.

At Friday’s probable cause hearing before Judge Kenneth King of 36th District Court, Marshall’s attorney said that in discussing the case with Marshall at Wayne County Jail, he became concerned about his ability to stand trial.

Cripps said that based on the gravity of the charges Marshall is facing and his interviews with him, he doesn’t believe his client has a “cognitive grasp of the proceedings against him.”

Marshall has also been charged in connection with a separate carjacking that took place just days before Garner was killed. He’s charged with carjacking, armed robbery, assault with intent to murder, receiving and concealing stolen property, unlawful driving away of an automobile and felony firearm in an incident on the 14400 block of Edmore.

Marshall’s parents, Ralph Marshall Sr. and Beatina Marshall, were in court Friday, along with family members and friends who said the violence Marshall is accused of is out of character.

“Everybody is heartbroken,” Beatina Marshall said. “My son would never just hurt someone.”

The charges, she said, “were a shock to all of us.” Marshall “is loved by our block, our family, and supported by all of us,” she added.

He was going to graduate high school this spring, and was considering a career in the armed forces before his legal troubles, Beatina Marshall said.

Richard Corona, a family friend whose son, Reondo, grew up with Ralph Marshall, said, “he’s not like that. It sounds like he got caught up in a bad situation.”

“He’d take the fall for somebody rather than tell,” Beatina Marshall said. She told The Detroit News she is dismayed by what she sees on social media, which is people acting as if her son has already been convicted.

Ralph Marshall’s aunt, Melody Menefee, described her nephew as the kind of guy who gets upset when he sees TV news reports of people mistreating animals. She believes his size, which she describes as above average, leads people to prejudge him as dangerous.

“To some people, he may look offensive,” Menefee said, “but he’s not.”

Deonte Williams, 20, who described himself as a friend, said: “This ain’t nothing I’d think Ralph would do. That doesn’t sound like his character.”

jdickson@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2536