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Last updated: Tue. Feb. 11, 2014 - 07:32 am EDT

Drug-debt killing nets sentence of 23 years

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The case filed against Augustus Marshall nearly a year ago was the first murder case filed in 2013.

But when he was sentenced Monday morning to 23 years in prison, the 28-year-old Fort Wayne man was given time for voluntary manslaughter.

His co-defendant, Jose Lopez Jr., 24, sentenced Friday to 23 years in prison, had also faced a charge of murder. Both men were accused of killing 28-year-old Antonio Galvan III last February.

Lopez, known as “Fat Jose,” pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a lesser charge of aggravated battery, along with charges of residential entry and obstruction of justice.

The murder charges levied against both men went away as part of plea agreements with prosecutors.

Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards said the issue with the cases had been the behavior of one witness in particular, the one she said likely heard and possibly saw everything that happened that night when Galvan answered the door to his home.

Court documents identify that witness as Galvan’s brother.

On Feb. 23, at about 1:15 a.m., Lopez and Marshall knocked on the door to Galvan’s home in the 3000 block of McDonald Street. Galvan’s mother said Friday she tried to answer the door, but her son stopped her and said he’d answer it.

As Galvan cracked the door, calling his brother to get his pit bull, either Lopez or Marshall kicked in the door.

As Galvan’s brother took control of the dog, according to court documents, he heard a gunshot.

He said he ran back toward the front door and saw his brother falling backward, a gunshot wound to his neck.

According to court documents, the two men went there to collect a $2,000 drug debt owed to Marshall by Galvan.

After the shooting, the two men fled in a black SUV, tossing the shotgun out the window. It was found later by police, as were they – holed up in the bedroom of an elderly woman into whose home they forced their way.

Since the time Lopez and Marshall were charged, prosecutors continued to investigate and take depositions in the case.

During one of those depositions, the witness, whom Richards did not identify, was “not very forthcoming,” she said.

“The concern was that if he showed a similar attitude, and gave the same testimony in trial that it was going to put the ability to get a conviction for murder in jeopardy,” Richards said.

So over the past few months, plea agreements were crafted between defense attorneys and prosecutors, and with the input from Galvan’s family, which led to the filing of Class A felony charges against Marshall and Lopez, lesser charges than the original counts of murder.

Class A felonies call for possible prison sentences of 20 to 50 years, while the charge of murder presents a minimum sentence of 45 years in prison.

Marshall pleaded guilty last month to charges of residential entry and voluntary manslaughter.

Under the terms of their plea agreements, both Lopez and Marshall were sentenced to 23 years in prison. With good behavior, they could be free in as little as 13 years.

Richards said that through the process, prosecutors learned who shot Galvan. It was Marshall.

In court documents filed last year, Lopez told police Marshall shot Galvan but claimed he did not know Marshall was armed or intended to kill Galvan. During his sentencing hearing last week, Surbeck labeled that claim as so much nonsense. Lopez was sentenced to 26 years in prison, with three years suspended and to be served on probation.

On Monday, while Galvan’s mother, Doreen Ramirez, again told the court how heartbroken she was at the death of her son, Marshall sat silently.

When it was his turn to speak, he said nothing, offered nothing by way of apology or admission.

Surbeck accepted the plea agreement, sentencing Marshall to a total of 30 years in prison – 30 on the manslaughter charge and another three on the charge of residential entry – but ordered the sentences to be served at the same time.

Per the plea agreement, seven years of the sentence were ordered suspended and to be served on probation. Marshall must spend the first year of his probation on electronic monitoring, and successfully complete non-violence counseling.

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