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Fire Captain Pleads Not Guilty to 1984 Slaying

September 29, 2006|Jill Leovy | Times Staff Writer

A fire captain with the state Forestry Department pleaded not guilty Thursday to a murder charge in the 1984 slaying of a young woman in Torrance.

William Charles Marshall, 45, of Mountain View, was arraigned in Los Angeles County Superior Court after his arrest early Thursday by Torrance investigators at his firehouse in Thousand Palms, Riverside County.

The victim, Robin Lucille Hoynes, 21, of Whittier, was found stabbed to death Oct. 31, 1984, in the Torrance Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant where she was an assistant manager.

The case had languished unsolved for years until Torrance police cold case investigators reopened it two years ago, said Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the L.A. County district attorney's office.

Marshall's attorney, Ilona Peltyn, a deputy public defender, declined to speak about the case, saying she had been assigned shortly before the arraignment and hadn't had time to study it.

Marshall was arraigned after a grand jury indicted him Wednesday on a single count of murder with the special circumstance of robbery.

Prosecutors were closemouthed Thursday about the new evidence that prompted them to pursue Marshall, who had been a suspect at the time of the murder but was not charged. However, they said the case did not hinge on evidence from DNA testing.

"It's a circumstantial case," Deputy Dist. Atty. John Lewin told Judge David S. Wesley in court Thursday.

"Shoe-leather detective work" -- not fancy lab work -- put investigators back on Marshall's trail more than two decades after Hoynes' death, Gibbons said.

At one time, Marshall and Hoynes were both assistant managers at the Kentucky Fried Chicken at 165 Palos Verdes Blvd. in Torrance, Gibbons said.

Marshall, who had a key to the restaurant, was fired Oct. 26, 1984. Hoynes' body was found five days later in the kitchen area. She had stayed late the night of Oct. 30 to count the day's receipts.

News accounts at the time said police believed a robber had attacked her with a knife when she was alone in the office, taking money from her purse and cash receipts from the restaurant.

Investigators recovered the knife and immediately homed in on Marshall, whom they described in news accounts as a disgruntled former employee. They tailed their prime suspect for more than a week, then arrested him. But the district attorney at the time declined to file charges.

Several years later, Marshall was convicted of burglary and sentenced to two years in state prison. Subsequently, he joined the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

In court Thursday, Marshall, a stout man with a receding hairline, glasses and a mustache, watched attentively as his attorney entered a not guilty plea. When the judge read the allegation of a special circumstance of robbery, Marshall's head jerked in apparent surprise, but he made no other movement.

The judge assigned his case to a Torrance courtroom for a pretrial hearing Oct. 3.

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