You could call this
a simple case. Marsh had his man. A charge of negligent shooting would be
lodged and the law would take over. Marsh, however, had his private procedure
First he noted the
serial numbers of the rifles. Then, as a matter of routine, he took the two
principals to the scene the next morning where they re-enacted the tragedy.
Marsh took compass bearings; he sketched diagrams. He took careful
measurements, marking down the distance from the muzzle of the shooter's gun to
the victim's position. He made notes on the type of cover. He got an exact
description of the kind and color of the clothing worn by the victim. From the
principals he learned the time of the shooting and the degree of visibility.
Also, as a matter of routine, Marsh recovered the bullet from the body of the
dead man; this in the event that the hunter might decide to change his plea in
Marsh carried a
number of other pertinent facts away from the scene which were oddly
significant when compared with those of other case histories. This Bronx
carpenter had had more than five years' hunting experience. He knew the woods
and he understood firearms. He was mature and apparently a man of sound
judgment. He seemed, in short, like a man who might be termed by most standards
a "safe" hunter.
It might well be
considered an exceptional accident. But Marsh, a bear with figures and with
some 15 years of records to back him up, can prove that it was not. He has
personally investigated roughly 250 woods accidents in his 10 years in the
warden service. This case was no oddity. This man, says Marsh, is the typical
Naturally not all
of Marsh's accidents are quite so simple. In many cases all he has to start
with is a victim, stone cold with a bullet through him. This is all he had some
time back when he was still just a district warden. It was this case that first
gave him something of a reputation as a shrewd investigator.
It was a
Thanksgiving Day tragedy. Marsh was just finishing up his turkey dinner with
his wife and two young boys when a call came. It was the York County sheriff:
"Maynard, a woman's been killed in the woods near Hollis. Can you meet me
there? I may need some help."
Arriving at the
scene, Marsh found the sheriff and the medical examiner waiting for him. There
on a forest road lay the body of a woman, mother of three, with a bullet
through her head. The M.E. pronounced her dead by accidental shooting, person
unknown. His job was done.
Maynard Marsh's job
had just started. The accident had drawn in the hunters working the area.
Interviewing each separately, cross-checking their stories, Marsh made a
diagram, placing them all at the time of the shooting. He came up with two
prime suspects, a man named Smith and a mill worker named Michaud (both names
have been changed to protect the innocent party). Each stoutly denied
responsibility for the killing, although they both admitted they had fired at
game that morning. Marsh, a disarmingly mild and deliberate man, appeared to
accept these disavowals. He spoke casually about ballistics evidence,
suggesting that it was easy to assign responsibility by test-firing rifles and
matching the bullets with the one recovered from the victim's body.
he neglected to disclose that he didn't have the bullet from the victim's body
and that the chances were it would never be recovered. Still casual, Marsh went
about the routine of taking serial numbers of all the rifles he could lay his
hands on. He got the break he was waiting for. When he came again to Michaud,
it seemed the mill worker had mislaid his rifle in the excitement.