Suspect arrested in murder, rape of Sierra Bush was former tenant of her father

2 images of Bruce A. Marchant, 10 years apart: At left, while he was in Idaho state prison in 2004. At right, while he was in the Ada County Jail in 2014 on charges that were later dropped.
2 images of Bruce A. Marchant, 10 years apart: At left, while he was in Idaho state prison in 2004. At right, while he was in the Ada County Jail in 2014 on charges that were later dropped.

Bruce Allen Marchant, 61, a convicted felon now accused of raping and murdering a Boise State student, recently lived in a home owned by that student’s father.

The house on a cul-de-sac along Maple Grove Road, between Ustick and McMillan, is a half-mile from the duplex Phil Bush invited his 18-year-old daughter, Sierra Bush, to move into earlier this year.

Sierra — or Simon, to some — moved in in June. She went missing in late September, and her naked body was found Oct. 22 in a creek about 30 miles from Idaho City, in Boise County.

Marchant was arrested Thursday in New York City on felony charges of murder, rape and kidnapping after an extensive police investigation.

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.

The address of the hospital Marchant was arrested at corresponds to a Veterans Affairs hospital in Manhattan. It’s unclear whether Marchant has a history of military service. A New York City law enforcement officer familiar with the investigation 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.

When they announced Marchant’s arrest late Thursday afternoon, Boise police revealed little about how Marchant was identified as the suspect in the rape and murder, but previously he served 20 years in Idaho prisons for a North Idaho armed robbery and assault on a police officer. He reportedly shot at an officer and threatened police again before officers fired and wounded him.

Marchant tried to reduce his prison sentences in 1989, the Idaho Court of Appeals ruled against him, saying his “behavior resulted from debilitating psychological disorders” and that he stopped using prescribed medication and resorted instead to heavy alcohol use.

He ultimately served the full 20 years for the crimes before he was released Sept. 26, 2008, IDOC spokesman Jeff Ray said.

[LINK: More on Bruce Marchant’s criminal history]

Bart Green, Bush’s stepfather, told the Statesman he had never seen nor heard of Marchant before.

Green 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. 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.

“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.”

Neighbors recall Marchant

Two neighbors of the cul-de-sac home where Marchant once lived remembered him, along with a motor home that belonged to him, parked at the house a previous summer. Justin Griggs, who lives next door, said six or seven people live in the house now. He recalled seeing Sierra Bush there before and thought Phil Bush lived there until Bush built the duplex.

Of Marchant: “That’s very shocking,” Griggs said when told of the arrest. “He was very quiet, kept to his own.” He said Marchant never seemed violent. “He definitely wasn’t all there. I don’t know if it was from mental illness or drugs.”

Phil Bush was known to help people out whom he met through Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, Griggs said. He couldn’t rememeber any significant issues at his neighbors’ house in his three years living next door.

Another neighbor who did not give her name said she thought the home to be a halfway house. She recalled Marchant as friendly, but wondered if he was “disabled or mentally ill,” and said he once gave one of her kids a toy.

No one at the house answered the door Thursday evening.

Ada County records show Phil Bush bought the home in 2013. Bush could not be reached for comment Thursday.

New York police list a current address for Marchant on North Allumbaugh in Boise.

Cause of death: asphyxiation

Sierra Bush, 18, was described as a top student with a promising future and 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.

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.

That would have been Tuesday, Sept. 27, when the Greens got a text from Phil Bush, who told them he had not seen Sierra since Sunday, Sept. 25.

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

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller

Kristin Rodine, Cynthia Sewell and Nicole Blanchard contributed.