When Bruce A. Marchant appeared before the Idaho Parole Commission in early 2000, he told its members that he didn’t “fit in” at prison.
But, he said, that wasn’t any different from his life outside of prison.
Marchant, now 61, had spent much of the previous three decades floating between state and federal prisons. At the time, he was serving a 20-year sentence for a North Idaho armed robbery and an assault on a police officer.
An examination of notes kept by the parole commission and disciplinary reports from the Idaho Department of Correction show a loner who wasn’t very good at following the rules and who at times openly defied corrections officers. At one point, he told authorities that he killed a fellow Idaho inmate, but he was not criminally charged for such an act.
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At one point recently, he lived in a house owned by Bush’s father, Phil Bush, on a cul-de-sac along Maple Grove Road, between Ustick and McMillan. The home was a half-mile from a duplex that Sierra Bush moved into with her father in June. Phil Bush told the New York Daily News that Marchant hadn’t lived there for about six months leading up to Sierra’s disappearance.
Sierra Bush was reported missing in late September. Her body was found Oct. 22 in Boise County in a creek about 30 miles from Idaho City.
The files revealed that Marchant said he killed inmate Joseph Edmund Chastain in 2000. News reports from the time said Chastain, 38, told staffers in the medical unit at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution that he had fallen on some prison stairs on July 2, 2000. Chastain died the next day.
A spokeswoman for the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, which investigated the death, said Chastain had “suspicious” bruises in his abdominal area that were inconsistent with a fall. An autopsy concluded that Chastain died from abdominal bleeding. The Nampa man had been sentenced just the year before to serve 20 years to life for a Canyon County robbery.
Chastain was Marchant’s cellmate. Ada County sheriff’s detectives interviewed Marchant and more than a dozen other inmates, Sheriff’s Office spokesman Patrick Orr said Tuesday. Marchant admitted to having a fight with Chastain.
“It appears the prosecutor reviewed the investigation and decided in October 2001 not to file any criminal charges against Marchant,” Orr said.
Both the parole board’s notes and the disciplinary report indicate that Marchant told a corrections officer that he had killed Chastain.
Marchant revealed that he suffered from bipolar disorder, a brain disorder that the National Institute of Mental Health says causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Marchant, who said he was taking medication for the disorder, told the board he wanted to go to a mental hospital to get the help he believed he needed.
He also told the board that he had served on a the deck of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War — service that, so far, the Idaho Statesman has been unable to verify, though New York police arrested him at a VA hospital. He said he had suffered mental health issues since Vietnam but was unqualified to determine whether his problems stemmed from that service.
He told the board in 2000 that he hadn’t participated in any prison self-improvement courses. Marchant said he didn’t see the need, according to meeting minutes.
Marchant was born in Nebraska and at one time worked as a heating and air conditioning technician in Rome, Ga., where his parents were living.
He said he was a derelict and a drunk living on the streets of Seattle when he became friends with a man who brought him to Idaho. The other man came to join the Aryan Nations, the white supremacist group then operating in Hayden. Marchant said he didn’t realize that was the man’s intention and that he didn’t come to Hayden to join the racist group himself.
Soon after, in December 1986, he and a co-defendant robbed a man at gunpoint in Hayden. Police trapped Marchant in a cul-de-sac and Marchant fired a gun toward the officers. He told the parole board that he intentionally shot toward the officers’ feet in order to draw their fire so they would kill him. He was shot in the eye, chest and hand.
Marchant told the parole board that he was convicted in a 1982 arson case in Georgia. He said he torched a mobile home in order to kill himself, but “chickened out” and survived. A year later, he was convicted of armed robbery, also in Georgia. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and served more than half of that in a federal prison in North Carolina before he was paroled.
Because of his later Idaho crimes, federal prosecutors charged Marchant with a parole violation. When he was released from prison in Idaho in 1992, he was sent to a federal prison in Lompoc, Calif.
Four years later, the Idaho parole board received reports that Marchant had been “a disciplinary problem since his arrival.” While in federal custody, Marchant refused to accept a move from a special housing unit to the general population. Another time he slept in and refused to report to work. He also refused an order to go to his room during quiet time hours and told an officer that he wanted to be sent to a segregation unit where “he could be waited on.”
Marchant was eligible for federal parole in February 1996. However, because of his behavior, he was not released until April 1999. At the time, he was housed at a federal medical center for prisoners in Springfield, Mo., said Justin Long, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
After the federal release, Marchant was returned to the custody of the Idaho Department of Correction on parole violations. He remained in various Idaho prisons until Sept. 26, 2008, when he was released after reaching the end of his sentence.
During those years, Marchant continued to cause disciplinary problems. In February 2003, he picked up a television set and smashed it on the ground. That same month, he punched a corrections officer in the face.
At his last parole board hearing, in 2003, the board declined to release him early.
“His history is serious and the commission considers him a high risk,” the meeting notes said.
In 2014, Marchant was charged with two counts of misdemeanor battery in Ada County for alleged assaults against two women. One of those women and a man who was once Marchant’s roommate told the Statesman last week that Marchant physically assaulted them in separate incidents at an Orchard Street house.
Prosecutors later dropped the charges as part of a negotiated deal.
Marchant is scheduled to appear in New York Criminal Court on Jan. 5. He could return to Idaho fairly quickly after that if he waives extradition. Otherwise, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter would have to send a formal request to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, asking for Marchant to be sent to Idaho to face charges.