The 62-year-old man accused of kidnapping, raping and killing a Boise State University Honors College student last fall has reached a plea deal with prosecutors.
Bruce A. Marchant, clad in an orange prison jumper, entered a guilty plea Tuesday in a Boise courtroom on one of three counts — first-degree murder.
In exchange for his guilty plea to the premeditated murder charge, prosecutors agreed to drop the rape and kidnapping counts. As part of the plea bargain, Marchant waived his right to an appeal.
Marchant, a convicted felon, was charged in the death of 18-year-old Sierra Bush, whose body was found in a creek south of Idaho City last Oct. 22. Bush had been missing about a month.
(Some people knew Sierra Bush as Simon, but it appears she had no one true preference. The Statesman is using the name most consistently given to us in interviews and documents.)
Bart Green, Bush’s stepfather, told the Statesman that the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office had met with the family and asked for their input. He said they supported the plea deal offered to Marchant.
When Marchant was asked by 4th District Judge Jonathan Medema whether he committed first-degree murder, Marchant replied, “Yes sir, your honor.” He could face life in prison without parole.
Medema, who seemed concerned about the validity of the plea, asked Marchant why he chose to plead guilty. Marchant offered two explanations. First, he said, if the case had gone to trial, “you have no choice but to give the maximum penalty.” (Medema disputed that, telling Marchant that if the state pursued the death penalty, it would be up to a jury to decide.)
After conferring with his attorney, David Smethers, Marchant added, “I want to plead guilty because that’s what happened.”
He said he didn’t want to slow the court down or “cause the family any more grief than what I’ve caused already.”
In court Tuesday, Marchant said he’d been diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses, including ADD, PTSD, schizophrenia and manic depression, for which he takes medication. He said he usually gets just a couple of hours of sleep a night, prompting Medema to ask whether he needed more time to think over his plea decision. Marchant said no.
Medema continued to press Marchant to determine whether he understood the consequences of a guilty plea, particularly after Marchant began to make claims that he would receive as much as $100,000 a year while in prison. (Smethers clarified that Marchant receives $25,000 per year in veterans benefits for serving in Vietnam). Marchant said he had inventions such as the Toyota Prius, for which he is owed billions.
“Those statements seem somewhat fantastical,” said Medema, who expressed concerned that Marchant was unable to understand what was going on.
Marchant rebuffed those concerns, reiterating statements that he was guilty and blaming lack of sleep and too much time in prisons for being befuddled.
“I choked Sierra Bush with my hands until she died,” Marchant said.
Marchant, who was a former tenant in one of the properties owned by Sierra Bush’s father, told the judge that he killed Sierra in her father Phil Bush’s house. He said the teenager kept screaming.
The judge asked Marchant whether he considered the consequences of his actions.
“No, I didn’t think about it. … It was just a spur of the moment,” Marchant replied.
Medema told him that prosecutors would have to prove that he knew that choking Bush would kill her.
“I think they could prove that easily,” Marchant said.
Finally, shortly before 11 a.m., Medema accepted Marchant’s guilty plea. He said that despite his concerns about the grandiosity of Marchant’s thinking, it appeared that Marchant understood the plea and that it was freely given.
Marchant will be sentenced at 9 a.m. Dec. 6. Prior to sentencing, he will receive a mental evaluation. Medema cleared half a day for the sentencing hearing, at which Deputy Prosecutor Brian Naugle said several friends and family of Sierra Bush will share impact statements.
Investigators arrested Marchant in New York City last December. The arrest followed an investigation that criss-crossed the state and the country, including the discovery of Bush’s DNA in blood found on leather gloves in Marchant’s car after he crashed it Sept. 28 in Idaho County.
A jury trial that was set for Nov. 1 has been vacated.