Who Mutilated Dominic Marion?

On the trail of a bizarre hospital crime, New Times finds a cryogenically frozen head, a witch hunt for a wiccan and a stumped detective. And still nobody knows . . .

"If you go back to the medieval villages, it's crimes like this that gave rise to the myths of werewolves and monsters that come out at night," said former FBI criminal profiler Gregg McCrary. "In some little village, they'd find some body horribly mutilated in the morning, and they'd figure that it must have been some monster, that no human being would be capable of committing such a horrific crime. In fact, we know now that people are perfectly capable of committing these horrific crimes while appearing, in many respects, quite normal."

The "mutilation timeline" begins around 4 a.m., with Marion asleep in his bed, just before his nurse returned to check on her patient. Her call of alarm woke up the rehab unit and began a sequence of events that has been scrutinized for years, yet still leaves a baffling whodunit unsolved. Due to police indifference, hospital negligence and morbid coincidence, a wide window of opportunity was created at the hospital where everybody who came in contact with Marion that Halloween morning -- including nurses, an organ donor harvester and a mortuary driver -- would come under suspicion.

Remembers one Columbia Medical Center staffer during her police interview: "It was a crazy night. It was a crazy, crazy night..."

Dominic and Ann Marion in a family photograph.
Dominic and Ann Marion in a family photograph.
Plaintiffs' attorneys used this timeline graphic in court to show the jury the sequence of events on Halloween 1996.
Plaintiffs' attorneys used this timeline graphic in court to show the jury the sequence of events on Halloween 1996.


Code Blues

Some health-care workers say they are able to sense when they have lost a patient as soon as they enter a room. Before they check for a pulse, even before they arrive at the patient's bedside, they somehow know they are in the room alone.

It was Mary Trese's fourth workday at Columbia Medical Center when she discovered Dominic Marion dead. She said later in a deposition that she is familiar with that eerie sense of a patient's passing, but had no premonition that he was gone.

Trese was a 24-year-old temporary nurse with American Mobile Nursing who had just started a new assignment in Phoenix. The day before, one of her patients had "gone bad" -- coded -- and was moved to the Intensive Care Unit and died. Marion had been transferred to rehab from the "Hearts at Rest" cardiac monitoring unit the night before.

At 4:43, Trese went through the wooden door of Room 124.

"Mr. Marion?" she asked, and touched his chest.

Marion was unresponsive. No pulse.

Trese ran into the hall: "Code blue!"

Within minutes, about a dozen hospital employees filled Room 124.

Somebody got the crash cart. Somebody got the cardiac monitor. Out came the defibrillator. Out came the syringes. The crash team tried to intubate -- get a plastic air tube down Marion's throat -- but could not. His neck was thick and stiff.

And then, more rehab unit confusion.

The patient in Room 133 was going "light crazy" -- hitting his call button.

And the patient in the room next to Marion's, another of Trese's, began having chest pains, prompting a second code blue.

Through the frenetic blur of multiple emergencies, the crash team continued to work on Marion for about 15 minutes. Then, at 5:10 a.m., Dominic Marion was pronounced dead. Cause of death was a "probable myocardial infarction as a consequence of coronary disease" -- a heart attack.

Which made sense. Marion, after all, had survived several previous heart attacks. Even a minor strain could have put him over. The pain in his knees, a nightmare . . . any unexpected shock.

The crash team dispersed.

With so many people in the room, the mutilation could not have occurred during the resuscitation period. On that point, everyone agrees. But were Marion's genitals removed before the code, or after?

Nobody in the crash team specifically remembers looking underneath Marion's sheets, which were at his waistline during the code. And nobody remembers seeing Marion's Foley catheter tube and bag, even though the presence of a Foley had been noted on his chart during Trese's midnight rounds. This would become the crime's central paradox: If the mutilation happened before the code, could the hospital staff really not notice a wound or see any blood? And if it happened after the code, how does one explain the missing Foley catheter and the (eventually discovered) bloodstained sheets that experts said were consistent with a wound made near the time of death?

Once Marion was declared dead, there were new priorities for the hospital staff.

Trese reluctantly made the "death notice call" to Marion's wife. Later, Marion's daughter would see Trese crying and being consoled by the hospital chaplain.

Back in Room 124, Dan DeWitt, the night charge nurse, and Sheila Wiley, a nursing assistant, prepared the room for Marion's family.

They changed Marion's topmost sheet, wiped the defibrillator gel off his chest, picked up wrappers and syringes that litter a room after a code. Wiley washed Marion's face, combed his hair and put out a box of Kleenex. They pulled out his saline IV tube, removed the gown from around his chest and replaced it.

DeWitt and Wiley were in the room about 15 minutes with the door closed. For a few moments, Wiley was in the room alone.

When they were finished, Marion looked peaceful, as if he had simply fallen into a deep sleep.

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