Jan 17, 2015 11:21 AM by Cecile Juliette
"On October 12, 2001, Marvin Ray Markle junior took my mother to the wildlife area off of Vance Avenue and shot her in the face and just left her on the side of a dirt road like a worthless piece of garbage," said Britany Charlton, tears streaming down her face as she addressed the court. "I was only nine years old when my mother was robbed from me."
Charlton sobbed as read her victim impact statement in a quiet voice, detailing how the murder of her mother Shirley Pratt at the hands of Markle more than a decade earlier changed her life. Said Charlton, "I will never be able to call her, see her, hug her. I did not even get to say goodbye to her."
According to investigators with the Butte County Sheriff's Office, Pratt's body was found nearly naked. A forensics expert testified she had been fatally wounded by a single bullet to her head as she lay on the ground. Evidence showed she had been shot most likely by someone standing over her.
Charlton, now 22, described how her mother's murder devastated the entire family, including Pratt's sister Peggy, her cousin Nicole Miller, her brother Eric, and sister Michelle. Pratt gave Michelle up for adoption shortly after birth, and Michelle had met her mom a few times before her mom was killed. Said Charlton of her sister, "After the murder of her mom, she (Michelle) ended up taking her own life."
Nicole Miller, Pratt's niece, also addressed the court, describing the degrading nature in which her aunt's body was found. "She was shot in the head and left in the wildlife area off Vance Avenue in Oroville, California. She was later found by a gentleman who was out hunting that morning. The gentleman happened to know her from her childhood years. He found her naked, lifeless body dumped by a rock like an animal carcass. She was left naked and exposed for the whole world to see like she was a piece of garbage."
With a tattered teddy bear, one eye missing, balanced on the wooden barrier in front of her, Miller described what it was like to lose her childhood after her aunt was killed. She said Pratt's murder devastated her mom Peggy, leaving her nearly incapacitated with grief. Miller, just a young teenager herself, raised Brittany and her brother Eric. She told the court she homeschooled the year after Pratt's murder in order to ensure the children were properly cared for, and through their teenaged years, often worked two jobs to help make sure they were provided for.
Miller read Eric Pratt's victim impact statement to the court, as he couldn't emotionally deal with being there in person. She said Eric Pratt, now 27, grew up feeling anxious and embarrassed in the small town of Biggs, wondering if everyone thought of him as the kid whose mom was murdered.
Peggy McCrary, Pratt's younger sister, said Markle would have to answer to God one day. In the meantime, she misses her sister every day. "It only takes to hear a simple song that we used to roller skate to, or the holidays to come around that I mourn for her presence."
Butte County Superior Court Judge James Reilley sentenced Markle to a life term, making him eligible for parole when he is 129 years old.
Markle declined to address the court. Speaking outside the building following the sentencing, Miller said it wouldn't have mattered if he had apologized, because it "wouldn't be accepted anyway."
Markle's defense attorney told the court that Pratt did not deserve what happened to her, but that his client shouldn't apologize because he didn't commit the murder, but was the victim of a social media campaign.
Pratt's loved ones wore shirts with her picture printed on the front. But they weren't the only group of supporters to show up to the sentencing. A large group of people traveled from Vacaville, all wearing purple shirts with the picture of a murdered teenager named De Anna Lynn Johnson. They silently watched the proceedings, and offered hugs and words of encouragement. The group said it seeks justice for Johnson, who, according to investigators with the Vacaville Police Department, was bludgeoned to death in 1982.
Vacaville Police Lt. Matt Lydon attended the trial and sentencing. He is the lead investigator in Johnson's murder. He plans on interviewing several witnesses who testified under oath at Pratt's murder trial that Markle admitted to them he killed a Vacaville girl. The case has long since gone cold, but Johnson's childhood classmates are hoping the guilty verdict Pratt's murder can breathe new life into the Johnson case.
The mood outside Butte County Superior Court was both jubilant and bittersweet. McCrary said, though she's relieved Markle will be locked up for the rest of his life, it won't bring back her sister.
Miller said it was important to note that they want justice for Johnson's family. She also spoke of her aunt's gentle, caring nature and bright smile. She said Pratt had given her the stuffed bear that she carried with her when Miller was five years old. She said Pratt always made her feel good about herself. "I live every day on these fond memories as they will be my future with her until I can see her again."