Bruce Marchant has led an extremely violent life.
The 62-year-old will spend the rest of it in prison after he repaid one man’s kindness with pure evil — and robbed Boise of one of its bright young stars, 18-year-old Sierra Bush.
“In my view, Mr. Marchant is a dangerous person,” Fourth District Judge Jonathan Medema said in sentencing Marchant for first-degree murder. “Mr. Marchant has been dangerous for a long time … and will continue to be dangerous until the day he dies.”
On Sept. 25 last year, Marchant raped and strangled Bush in the Boise home she shared with her father, then dumped her body in a creek in Boise County, prosecutors said. He pleaded guilty Sept. 5 to premeditated murder.
“The violation of the sanctity of Sierra’s home is what our worst nightmares are made of,” Ada County Prosecutor Brian Naugle said.
The vicious crime has impacted the whole community, causing people to be more fearful in general and possibly less willing to help house those who suffer who from mental illnesses or disabilities, Medema said.
“Something like this reminds us that there are those among us who are capable of deplorable acts,” Medema said.
An Honors College student at Boise State University, Bush was known to some friends as “Simon.” At her memorial service on campus, several BSU officials used the pronouns “they” and “them” to describe Bush. Bush’s friends in the transgendered community felt targeted and worried for their own safety when Bush disappeared, the judge said.
Bush was a vibrant, creative person who loved Japanese anime, Marvel comics, Bible camp, hiking, skiing and playing the flute. She and her mother designed and made elaborate cosplay costumes.
She had planned to study abroad in Germany during her sophomore year of college.
“Instead we are here in court because Sierra was murdered,” said her mother, Mary Helen Green, in an emotional victim impact statement. The night before she went missing, Sierra told her mom she was thinking of changing her major from engineering to English so she could focus on writing.
“I miss her smile, her laugh and talking to her about everything,” said Green, who described her grief as a boulder she now carries.
Attacked while home alone
Sierra Bush’s father, Phil Bush, evicted Marchant from one of his rental properties due to misconduct.
Neighbors of that property on Maple Grove Court and others said Phil Bush had gone out of his way to help Marchant and people struggling with mental illness and/or addiction issues. Even after kicking Marchant out, Bush agreed to loan him some cash.
Phil Bush told police that Marchant never came to collect the money that he’d asked for, Naugle said.
But it turned out Marchant had been at Bush’s house.
On the morning of Sept. 25, while Phil Bush was at church, Marchant showed up at the house.
Authorities don’t know for sure if he came to get revenge for being evicted, to pick up the cash he was offered or if he had other motives — there was evidence that he had previously peeped in Sierra’s windows.
Sierra Bush was home alone that morning.
Marchant killed her to stifle her screams during his sexual assault, then went to great lengths to cover up his crime, Naugle said.
“To choke the life out of a perfectly innocent person for crying out for help because you’ve broken into their house and raped them exhibits a level of depravity that is thankfully rare,” Naugle said.
Sierra’s mother and stepfather were horrified to discover a large amount of blood on various surfaces of their daughter’s bed when they were in her room to try to determine what clothes she was wearing when she went missing, stepfather Bart Green said.
Sometime after Marchant dumped Bush’s body in Mores Creek south of Idaho City, he crashed his car in Idaho County. Items found in his vehicle would provide the evidence that investigators needed to solve the crime; they found gloves with her blood on them and a piece of paper with part of a story that she had handwritten for one of her classes.
Marchant told investigators that he had nothing to do with Bush’s disappearance or death, and he denied she’d ever been in his car. He told police he crashed his car near Kooskia while en route to a job interview in Montana. After he was questioned by police and gave a DNA sample, he filled out numerous car loan applications, obtained a car and fled Boise without telling anyone.
Naugle said Marchant stole bicycles and strollers in Wyoming, then after running out of gas, sought help at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Boise police arrested Marchant at a VA hospital in New York City in early December last year.
Marchant was in the Air Force for a short time, after he “broke someone’s limb with a pipe” and was given the choice between jail or serving in the military, Medema said. He served two years on a carrier, starting in 1974.
Long violent history
Marchant’s violent background was detailed at length at his sentencing — and it began long before he arrived in Idaho.
When he was in his late 20s, he set his home on fire while his wife and child were inside; they survived, and he served minimal time. He later committed armed robbery at a post office in Texas.
One of his defense attorneys said both of those incidents were suicide attempts. She said he had a rough childhood and a mental breakdown after returning from his military service.
“Throughout his life, he has cried out for help,” she said, noting that professionals had diagnosed Marchant with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder with psychotic episodes and personality disorder.
Marchant served a 20-year prison sentence for a North Idaho armed robbery and an assault on police officers. His behavior in prison was violent; he struck staff, destroyed things and bragged about killing a fellow inmate, Naugle said.
He was released in 2008.
Last year, Marchant was investigated for allegedly abusing a psychosocial rehabilitation worker at Phil Bush’s rental property. Two former housemates of Marchant at other area rentals told the Statesman that he had physically assaulted them.
“He has this belief that prison made him violent. It was violent crimes that got him there to begin with,” said Naugle, who described Marchant as lazy but also cunning and manipulative.
Marchant used violence to get what he wanted, and he exhibited a pattern of hypersexual behavior that led up to the rape and murder of Bush, Naugle said.
Marchant said at his sentencing Wednesday that he was sorry “that any of this has occurred.”
“I’m real sorry for these people,” he said. “They’ve lost their daughter, and there’s no replacing any of that.”
Medema questioned the delusions and hallucinations that Marchant claims to suffer. He said he believes Marchant has a mood disorder and is maniacal about sex — but that he also knows the difference between right and wrong.
“Mr. Marchant can conform his behavior to get what he wants, when he wants it,” Medema said. He said he did not believe Marchant has experienced anything close to actual remorse for killing Bush.
“It would be a dereliction of my duty to fashion a sentence that ever permits you to be released into society again,” Medema said.