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One Year Later

Neighbors conduct vigil on anniversary of Springfield woman’s unsolved murder.

Friends and neighbors of Marion Marshall, killed one year ago on Aug. 14, 2006, came together at the Church of the Good Shepherd Tuesday night to remember her.

They also wanted to send a clear message to their community: They will not give up their search for the person responsible for her death.

"I am here because it's Marion," said friend Marge Powell, who taught ESOL classes at the church with Marshall. "That's it. She was so special. I'll never forget her."

More than 20 people shared those sentiments at a vigil in what was Marshall's church, a spiritual home where she was a member of the book club, the floral ministry, choir and other outreach programs.

In fact, the church book club was set to discuss a book Tuesday night Marshall would not have liked, said member Kathy Straight.

"I think if it were in her power, she decided to interrupt our discussion," Straight said, smiling.

Marshall was "a good Christian, very quiet and dependable, but she would speak her mind when she needed to," Straight said.

If the person who broke into her home and killed her has simply asked for something, Marshall would have been more than willing to give anything, she said.

Kathy Monahan-Murphy, president of the Edsall Road West Civic Association, said Marshall was a longtime member of the community and one of its most dedicated Neighborhood Watch volunteers.

"Marion was always very friendly and she was always out walking with her cane," said Monahan-Murphy.

It was her involvement in the Neighborhood Watch program that made her death so ironic.

Marshall, 72, was found dead in her Edsall Road West home, killed by what Fairfax County Police have described as blunt force trauma to the upper body. Her death most likely occurred during the daytime, according to police reports.

Her name comes up at nearly ever civic association meeting, Monahan-Murphy said, and with a majority elderly population, her neighbors are still frightened for their safety.

"I'm here tonight because I don't want people to forget," she said. "Someone out there knows something. We have to find out who did this. Even if someone remembers or sees something they don't think is important, it's the little things that make the biggest difference."

MARSHALL WOULD often take typed notes from Neighborhood Watch meetings or observations around to some of her neighbors who did not have Internet access, to make sure they knew what was going on in the neighborhood, said Vellie Dietrich Hall, organizer of the vigil and former close neighbor of Marshall.

"Before she died, she was the link for all the neighbors in the [Neighborhood Watch] program," Hall said. "She was a wonderful person and we didn't even get to say goodbye."

Little progress has taken place in tracking down Marshall's killer. In fact, a second woman, Marion Newman, 74, was killed in a similar fashion in November 2006, just a few months after Marshall's death. Newman also lived by herself in a home in the Crestwood area of Springfield, less than three miles away from where Marshall lived.

Fairfax County Police issued a statement Tuesday declaring that they believe the same person is responsible for both deaths, but Officer Shelly Broderick declined to say what led to that conclusion.

"We have determined this based on our investigation, which is ongoing," Broderick said. "In order to protect the integrity of the case, we can't say more than that."

She said Crime Solvers is still encouraging anyone with information to call the anonymous tip line.

"We aren't interested in getting the name of the person with the information, we simply want to find the person responsible," said Broderick.

The Edsall Road West neighborhood has been covered with fliers, posters and mailed information to keep Marshall's memory and the urgency to find the person responsible in mind, said Hall, who is running for Mason District Supervisor against incumbent Penny Gross (D). Hall has pledged to dedicate the rest of her campaign to finding the killer, but vows that this quest is "personal, not political."

"It was her death that made me decide to do something about public safety and crime prevention," said Hall. "We need to beef up the police force. We need a 24-hour homicide staff, we need a 24-hour domestic violence program, we need to boost the police force."

Honoring Marshall’s life, Rev. Dr. Laurence K. Packard led the group that had gathered in the church's sanctuary in a short service.

"This is a night for all of Fairfax County, to make it perfectly clear no one is forgotten," he said.

For those who knew Marshall, no words were needed to explain why she was special, he said. For those who knew her, no words could possibly do her justice.

"Keep in mind what makes our voices so strong together: how special Marion's life was and how special all lives are, in the eyes of God," Packard said.

Members of the church raised money for a square, stained glass window, now in the church's foyer, of a rose-colored cross. The window was dedicated in Marshall's name following the service, a tribute to a woman who brightened the lives of so many.