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 . . .

When the jurors returned from deliberations, they awarded the family $2 million, but ruled the hospital was not responsible for Marion's death.

Both sides claimed victory.

"I think the jury did the best they could with the information they had, and it sent a message to Columbia that they just couldn't sweep this under the carpet and pretend it didn't happen," Ann Marion said.

A police photograph shows the Columbia Medical Center bedding that accompanied the body of Dominic Marion to Heritage Funeral Chapel.
A police photograph shows the Columbia Medical Center bedding that accompanied the body of Dominic Marion to Heritage Funeral Chapel.
A police photograph shows the Columbia Medical Center bedding that accompanied the body of Dominic Marion to Heritage Funeral Chapel.
A police photograph shows the Columbia Medical Center bedding that accompanied the body of Dominic Marion to Heritage Funeral Chapel.

The hospital has neither paid the Marion family nor announced whether it will appeal the decision. The Columbia Medical Center Phoenix facility, now sitting lifeless and closed, was recently sold to Phoenix Children's Hospital.

After the trial, the pondering of who mutilated Marion began anew.

Woods said Mary Trese could not be found for months before the trial, causing raised eyebrows among the plaintiffs' counsel. "She was gone for the longest time," Woods said. "Nobody anticipated she would show up for the trial."

Trese's attorney, Melody Emmert, dismissed Woods' assertion. "I don't know how hard they searched," she said. "I think they're trying to indicate that there was some running away, and that was certainly not my impression."

When plaintiffs' attorneys learned that Trese would testify after all, they were eager to question her about a few crucial inconsistencies in her previous statements.

In her initial police interview, Trese had said she saw RN Sheila Wiley washing Marion's genitalia after the code and said Wiley had admitted removing his Foley catheter. She also told hospital attorneys Marion's wife had said she expected her husband to pass away because of his heart condition. (Later, Trese would retract that assertion, saying the wife simply did not seem surprised.)

Both of these claims diverted attention from the possibility of a pre-code mutilation, and likely contributed to Moreno's suspicion of Wiley and DeWitt.

But on the stand, while the statements of Columbia's staff remained static, Trese's story began to shift.

Flown to Phoenix as a witness for hospital attorneys to swear she saw Marion intact, Trese was visibly anxious. She swore she saw Marion's genitals intact during DeWitt and Wiley's cleanup. ("I believe I saw the genital area, and everything was intact.")

Then, during cross-examination, McGovern whittled away at Trese's assertions, suggesting that she was describing what routinely happens during a cleanup rather than what she actually saw on Halloween 1996:

McGovern: "You never saw anybody, Mary, removing the Foley catheter, correct?"

Trese: "No."

McGovern: "You never saw anybody wash the perineal/penis/anus/groin area?"

Trese: "Correct."

. . .

McGovern: "You realize that maybe you were talking about what normally occurs and it really wasn't something you saw?"

Trese: "Right."

. . .

McGovern: "And I infer from that that [you are saying] 'I must have seen his testicles and penis, but I didn't really.'"

Trese: "Right."

McGovern: "Thank you, Mary."

After the trial, Woods described Trese's testimony as "dramatic."

"She was extremely nervous," Woods said. "You just don't see many witnesses who are that frazzled as they take the stand. She had several different versions of her story, and the jury did say afterward they found her not credible."

McGovern hypothesized later that perhaps Trese had simply forgotten to check on Marion since her last documented round at midnight and wanted to divert attention from her time frame of responsibility so no one would think she could have prevented his death. (The hospital would later add another entry into Marion's record for Trese timed at 4:13 a.m. -- showing she checked on him a half-hour before he was discovered nonresponsive.) Her fear or guilt over missing a round could explain why she was crying when the family arrived, and why she kept changing her story.

It's a theory, one of many. But it is certain that Trese's version of events changed, and her conflicts with Wiley and DeWitt show a discrepancy among the staff as to what exactly happened that night.

"Before the trial, it seemed like there were missing pieces to the puzzle; now it seems like there are too many pieces," said Ann Marion.

Not only too many pieces, but too many pieces that do not fit together.

"These employees had memories that got better in the year 2000 than they were in 1996," McGovern said. "And [the memories] only got better as to their own innocent involvement, and the likely involvement of somebody other than themselves -- 'It may be that witch, maybe it's the wife, maybe it's the organ donor guy, maybe it's the funeral home guy.' All we'll ever know about this is that one or more of those employees knows something and will go to their grave without telling the truth."

So was the mutilator a member of the hospital staff, as McGovern insisted? A vagrant who just happened into the room? Was it just a coincidence the mutilation occurred on Halloween? Will the mutilator, as McCrary said, do this again? And was Dominic Marion murdered?

Ann Marion has her own suspicion.

Not to whodunit. She is exhausted by suspects and theories and gory minutia. Discussion of her husband, and especially how he died, is obviously painful. Several members of the Marion family now have a fear of hospitals.

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