Shirley Pratt was murdered on October 12, 2001. Her body was found near the intersection of Larkin Road and Vance Avenue close to the Oroville Wildlife Area. According to the Butte County Coroner, she died of a single gunshot wound to the head. Thursday, the Butte County Sheriff's Department announced Marvin Markle, 47, of Biggs, had been arrested for murder in connection with her death.
According to her niece, Nicole Miller, Pratt's murder tore the family apart, but they held it together as best they could in wake of the unexpected tragedy. Pratt, 41 at the time of her murder, left behind two daughters and a son. Miller says she was just a teen when she lost her aunt. She says, "I was 15 when my aunt was murdered. I had to grow up fast." She says Pratt was like her best friend, because she always tried to make the teenager feel good about herself. Pratt loved growing roses, and would let Miller pick them. She would tell her young niece that she was as pretty as any rose. Miller says Pratt was like a ray of sunshine because she brightened everyone's life with kindness. Miller has been keeping in touch with Butte County investigators since the murder. She says news of an arrest is "bittersweet," because Pratt will never be back with her family where she belongs.
Miller says she's grateful for the team of investigators who have been working on this case for more than 12 years. Sgt. Jason Hail has been leading the investigation in recent years. He says the case never went cold. He declined to say what kind of evidence led them to arrest Markle, though he did say there could have been an attempted sexual assault. Markle is being held at the Butte County Jail with no bail. He is originally from Vacaville, where he is a person of interest in the beating death of a teenager in 1982. Hail says he is in contact with the Vacaville Police Department in connection to that case.