Crime

Suspect arrested in murder, rape of Boise State student Sierra Bush

Vigil honors BSU student Sierra Simon Bush

About 250 people attended a vigil Wednesday night at Boise State University for Honors College student Sierra Simon Bush, who was found dead near Idaho City on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016. She had been missing since late September, and police said her
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About 250 people attended a vigil Wednesday night at Boise State University for Honors College student Sierra Simon Bush, who was found dead near Idaho City on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016. She had been missing since late September, and police said her

Boise police announced Thursday that Bruce Marchant, 61, has been arrested in a New York hospital on felony charges of murder, rape and kidnapping.

Marchant’s last known address was in Boise, police said. Boise police have been investigating the disappearance of Bush since late September; her body was found in Boise County Oct. 22.

[Related: Friends remember BSU student Sierra Bush as smart, funny, distinctive.]

Police conducted hundreds of interviews, according to a Thursday afternoon news release, and issued a warrant for Marchant’s arrest Tuesday. They learned Wednesday he was in a New York City hospital, and BPD detectives flew there to help New York police arrest him Thursday in Manhattan.

A New York City law enforcement officer familiar with the investigation said Marchant was arrested at an address that appears to be a veterans hospital. It’s unclear whether Marchant has a history of military service. The officer also said detectives who helped arrest Marchant are part of a citywide task force, though he declined to elaborate on what the task force’s focus is.

Marchant will have to be extradited back to Idaho to face trial. The timing and details of that are pending in New York City courts.

Bart Green, Bush’s stepfather, said the family wants to thank the countless law enforcement officials and others involved in investigating Sierra’s death, including police in Boise, Wisconsin, New York, the U.S. Marshals Service and the FBI.

“We are confident that the case will be successfully prosecuted,” Green said. “And we look forward to a successful conviction, so that it provides a measure of justice for Sierra and, hopefully, so that this individual is taken off the streets for the rest of his life — so he can never harm anyone again.”

Green said he had never seen nor heard of Marchant before.

The Boise County Coroner’s Office before Thursday had not released details of Bush’s autopsy. After news of Marchant’s arrest broke, Chief Deputy Coroner Mike Johnson confirmed his office ruled it a homicide.

“As far as the cause of death, it was a type of asphyxiation,” he said. He declined to specify the type of asphyxiation, nor did he comment on any findings that pointed to sexual assault.

Her date of death was “shortly after she was reported missing,” Johnson said.

Sheriff’s offices in Boise and Idaho counties, coroner’s offices in Ada and Boise counties and a behavioral analysis unit with the FBI all helped investigate the case, said BPD.

[Related: After missing Boise teen’s body found in creek, family convinced she was murdered.]

Idaho online court records show Marchant was arrested on two counts of misdemeanor battery in 2014, but those charges were later dismissed. State prison records indicate he spent time in an Idaho prison about 10 years ago — he was released in 2008 — but it’s not immediately clear why or how long he served for.

Bush, 18, described as a top student with a promising future, was starting an exciting new chapter of her life — her first year in the Honors College at Boise State University. She dove into several campus groups and activities, including creative writing and the Gender Equity Center (formerly called the Women’s Center). She had also apparently begun exploring her own identity: Some on campus knew her as Simon.

Then, one day, she was gone.

Her new neighbors, some of whom hadn’t yet met her, prayed for her safe return. It was 30 excruciating days before her loved ones would learn her terrible fate: Her naked body was found about 30 miles away in Mores Creek south of Idaho City, according to the Idaho World newspaper.

Boise police previously would only describe the circumstances of Bush’s death as “suspicious.” Her mother and stepfather feared from the start that she had been abducted and killed.

“She has never exhibited any signs of mental health problems,” stepfather Bart Green said in October. “She’s never, to our knowledge, engaged in any risky behavior or shown any propensity to run away. She has never shown any signs of suicidal ideation or depression. She has always been a very timid, introverted, very studious individual.”

Her last few months

Sierra lived with her mother, Mary Helen Green, and stepfather, Bart Green, in Meridian until about a month after she graduated from high school, according to Bart Green.

Her father, Phil Bush, invited her to live with him in a new duplex he was building. She moved into that house in June. Bush did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Police said Sierra was last seen alive at the Boise home on Saturday, Sept. 24.

The next evening, she was supposed to meet up with a couple of friends at Boise State’s Albertsons Library, according to one of the women she was scheduled to meet. The group planned to talk about creating an art club for students who aren’t majoring in art. Sierra was going to drive herself to campus for the 5 p.m. meeting.

“(We) showed up at the library at 5, but she never came. Both of us texted her, but she did not respond. It was unusual for her to be late, she was a punctual person, and was usually early to anything we set up,” friend Sierra Luedtke said.

Luedtke said they figured Sierra had gone off on a family camping trip and had no cellphone service — or perhaps her phone had died.

“I did not think anything of it until Tuesday morning, when she didn’t come to our early morning class, and continued to not respond to my texts,” she said.

It was Tuesday that the Greens said they got a text from Phil Bush, who told them he had not seen Sierra since Sunday, Sept. 25.

Sierra’s car remained parked at home, a close friend of Sierra’s said.

Shortly after her body was found, friends and family memorialized her in a vigil at Boise State University that drew about 250 people, all trying to come to terms with the news that the bright, creative freshman had been found dead.

“All of us coming into high school were very insecure in who we were and what we were doing,” friend Stephanie McGraw told the Statesman, describing her circle of friends as “misfits.” “The fact that she was able to be her in all of her quirkiness and be completely fine with it was something that was very refreshing and encouraging to the rest of us.”

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