Police discovered Sierra Bush’s DNA on blood found on leather gloves located inside the car of the man accused of killing her last fall, Bruce A. Marchant.
And a note related to a writing class that Bush, 18, was taking at Boise State University was also inside the car, according to court documents.
It appears that the vehicle — discussed during a Dec. 6 hearing in Ada County to issue a warrant for Marchant’s arrest — was a 2005 Ford Crown Victoria that Marchant ran off U.S. 12 near Kooskia, in Idaho County, on Sept. 28, just days after Bush’s disappearance.
Detectives later interviewed Marchant, 61, who said that no property belonging to Bush should have been found in the car and that Bush had refused to enter it. Authorities ended the interview by telling Marchant that they suspected him in Bush’s death, according to testimony from the hearing. He then left the state.
Eventually arrested in New York City, he was returned to Boise early Thursday morning and was arraigned in the afternoon. Magistrate Theresa Gardunia ordered Marchant held without bail on charges of first-degree murder, rape and kidnapping.
“I’m just glad to see it’s proceeding,” Bush’s father, Phil Bush, told the Statesman on Thursday afternoon.
If convicted, Marchant could face the death penalty. Prosecutors now have 60 days to decide whether to pursue capital punishment; Deputy Ada County Prosecutor Brian Naugle said Thursday that no decision has been made.
Marchant, who received a public defender, is scheduled to return to court for a preliminary hearing April 20.
Details of disappearance, death
Marchant is accused of killing Bush in Ada County and dumping her naked body in a creek near Idaho City, about 30 miles and one county away.
Bush went missing the weekend of Sept. 24-25. She died from asphyxiation or “other forms of oxygen deprivation,” according to a criminal complaint filed Dec. 6 and unsealed Thursday.
(Sierra Bush was transgender, and some people knew her 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.)
The criminal complaint alleges that Bush’s kidnapping, rape and death took place between Sept. 24-28 in Ada County. The kidnapping charge suggests that Bush was abducted in order to steal money or other property from her.
Seized car held key evidence
A tip to police identified Marchant as a potential suspect soon after Bush’s disappearance. Then came the Kooskia crash.
A report filed with the Idaho Transportation Department suggests that Marchant simply failed to negotiate a westbound curve on U.S. 12, running off the right side of the road and into an embankment.
An Idaho County sheriff’s deputy who responded found no sign that Marchant tried to brake or otherwise stop after leaving the road. Marchant’s Ford was towed, and the deputy gave Marchant a courtesy ride to Kooskia’s city park.
“Nothing more to report at this time,” the deputy wrote to end his report.
The crash gave Boise investigators crucial evidence, according to a recording of a Dec. 6 hearing to secure a warrant for Marchant’s arrest. Bush’s blood was found in the webbing of one of the gloves, and swabs of its inside produced DNA for both Bush and Marchant, and DNA evidence was found to also support the rape claim.
At the time Marchant spoke to detectives, the gloves were undergoing testing at the Idaho State Police labratory and the test results were not known.
“He admitted he knew who Sierra was but he had no personal relationship with Sierra Bush. He insisted that she had never been in his vehicle at any time, for any reason,” Naugle said Thursday.
Then he left town.
“Within days of Mr. Marchant speaking to police and providing his DNA sample, he managed to buy a car and essentially drove as far east as his gas money would take him. That turned out to be Milwaukee” Naugle said.
Marchant spent several weeks at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Milwaukee and then drove to New York, Naugle said.
He was arrested Dec. 7 at another VA hospital in New York City, one day after the hearing for the warrant. Announcing the arrest, Boise authorities thanked the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office for its assistance.
On his way out of a New York courthouse Wednesday, Marchant reportedly insisted he didn’t flee Idaho and that the timing of his visit there was coincidence, the New York Post reported. “I’m not guilty of rape and kidnapping,” he said.
Outside court, Naugle said he was relieved that Marchant was back in Idaho and the case against him could move forward.
“We always want to pursue justice as soon as possible for the victims,” he said.
A Boise State freshman, Bush was a beloved member of the university community. About 250 people attended a vigil for her on campus.
Marchant may have known Bush through renting space in a home owned by her father. Marchant left that house several months before her murder, Phil Bush told the New York Daily News.
Marchant had fought extradition back to Idaho, requiring a process in which New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Idaho Gov. Butch Otter had to sign documents ordering the prisoner’s transfer.
Marchant previously spent about two decades in Idaho and federal prisons, starting with an arson and a burglary of a post office in Midwest and Southern States. He was later convicted in a North Idaho armed robbery and assault on a police officer. He told a parole board at one point that he suffered from bipolar disorder.
While in prison, he told authorities he killed a fellow inmate, prompting an investigation that didn’t lead to any additional charges. Once released in 2008, it appears he stayed at a string of informal group homes — landlords renting to tenants dealing with mental illness, addiction or other issues. Former housemates told the Statesman of past assaults and other concerning behavior by Marchant. Early last year, while living at the multi-tenant home owned by Bush, Marchant’s sexually aggressive behavior toward a psychosocial rehabilitation worker led her to contact police.
Marchant claims he served in the Navy in the Vietnam War. The Statesman has requested records pertaining to his military service but has been unable to confirm that claim. In his application for a public defender, he said he is unemployed and listed his only income as $1,082 a month from the VA.