Originally Posted Online: Feb. 01, 2013, 10:09 pm
Last Updated: Feb. 02, 2013, 11:59 am

Inmate testifies Marshall admitted killing Cordova man

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By Vanessa Miller The Gazette

IOWA CITY — While held in the Muscatine County Jail in 2011, Justin Marshall confessed to the 2009 Iowa City killing of John Versypt of Cordova, according to a fellow inmate.

Earl Freeman, in the Muscatine jail on federal drug charges at the time, told jurors Friday Mr. Marshall came to him for legal advice and ended up sharing details about the killing.

"(Mr. Marshall) said he went to rob him," Mr. Freeman testified Friday. "(Mr. Versypt) grabbed the gun, the gun went off, shot him in the hand, shot him in the head, and he fell to the ground."

Mr. Freeman said Mr. Marshall told him he had seen Mr. Versypt at the complex earlier that day. Even though he called it an attempted robbery, Mr. Marshall said he ended up not taking anything from Mr. Versypt's wallet, Mr. Freeman said.

At the time of their talk, Mr. Marshall's co-defendant, Charles Thompson, was on trial for first-degree murder in the case. Mr. Freeman said Mr. Marshall told him, "They have an innocent man on trial for it now."

Mr. Freeman said Mr. Marshall was interested in getting a new attorney, but also wanted to see if he could get his first-degree murder charge downgraded to manslaughter. Mr. Marshall asked Mr. Freeman and another inmate to tell their attorneys he had confessed to the crime but it was an accident, according to Mr. Freeman's testimony.

Mr. Freeman said Mr. Marshall wrote down his story on a yellow notepad, which Mr. Freeman later provided to Iowa City investigators.

When pressed by defense attorneys, Mr. Freeman said he had hoped his cooperation would get his sentence reduced. But he said healso did it "because it was the right thing to do" and because he wanted to help the Versypt family.

Now serving a 20-year sentence in federal prison, Mr. Freeman said Friday that his cooperation with police, so far, has not helped him in any way. But defense attorney Thomas Gaul on Friday showed Mr. Freeman a letter from Johnson County Attorney's Office to the U.S. Attorney's Office recommending he receive a reduction for his good time.

Mr. Freeman said he was not aware of that letter and no longer expected his cooperation would do him any good. Mr. Freeman and his attorney fought the subpoena that forced him to testify, and Mr.Freeman told jurors he didn't want to be there.

Earlier Friday, Mr. Thompson, 20, testified on his whereabouts Oct. 8, 2009, when Mr. Versypt was shot at the Broadway Condominium complex in Iowa City. Hisgirlfriend also testified, corroborating Mr. Thompson's story.

Mr. Thompson was the first person arrested in the case in February 2010, followed by Mr. Marshall, 22, in July 2011 and Courtney White, 25, in October 2011.All three originally were charged with first-degree murder.

Mr. Thompson's trial, the first of the three, ended in a mistrial when prosecutors inadvertently presented evidence that was inadmissible. Afterthe trial, Mr. Thompson agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for his promise to testify against Mr. Marshall.

Testimony is expected to resume Monday.