Authorities say a University of Georgia professor died over the weekend in a bizarre series of events that led to murder charges for her boyfriend and prompted a witness to commit suicide at the scene.
Deputies responded to a house on a rural road near Milledgeville after 1 a.m. Sunday in the pounding rain, Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. They found the entomology professor and mother of two, Marianna Shockley, 43, on the pool deck near the hot tub, bleeding from her head. Homeowner Clark Heindel, 69, was performing CPR. The professor’s boyfriend Marcus Lillard, 41, was also on hand.
For reasons unknown, all three were nude.
The boyfriend, a car salesman, told deputies the professor had drowned in the hot tub while he was off gathering firewood, according to an incident report. That story immediately seemed unlikely, the sheriff said, because of the woman’s head wound and the demeanor of the boyfriend and the homeowner, a retired psychologist who opened the local yoga studio called Good Karma several years ago.
Deputies separated the men, who were friends, for interviews. At some point, Heindel disappeared inside the home and deputies heard a gunshot, Massee said. The sheriff said deputies found a note that suggested Heindel shot himself dead because he couldn’t live with the embarrassment associated with the professor’s death at his home.
The autopsy on Shockley showed she died of strangulation, the sheriff said, adding that Lillard is believed to be the killer.
The news has devastated and confounded Shockley’s family and is especially hard for her teen children, who lost their mother on Mother’s Day, said the professor’s friend Terry Jenkins. If only for the kids’ sake, Jenkins said he hoped people will try to focus on the person Shockley was, not just the strange circumstances of her death. He described Shockley as a grounded yet driven free spirit who cherished family and her work and research.