Before Stephen Marshall was killed Wednesday in a shootout with police at the Quality Inn in Manchester, he had a long history of life outside the law.
The 51-year-old, whose most recent listed address is in Nashua, was in and out of courtrooms across southern New Hampshire in recent years. Since 2008, he faced nearly two dozen criminal charges in Hillsborough and Rockingham counties, mostly for drug-related offenses.
Recently, a pattern had emerged: police would arrest Marshall, he would be released on bail, fail to show up for a court appearance and then re-offend.
When gunfire erupted Wednesday night at the Quality Inn, Marshall was wanted on at least two warrants for failure to appear in court. He’d been scheduled to plead guilty March 13 in Hillsborough County Superior Court South in connection to a 2018 case in which he allegedly sold fentanyl to a Nashua police informant and then was caught with heroin in his possession — he never showed up.
Two weeks earlier, on Feb. 27, Marshall skipped a plea and sentencing hearing in Hillsborough County Superior Court North in Manchester, where he faced two more drug possession charges.
And just nine days before that hearing in Manchester, Nashua police arrested Marshall for possession of heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine.
“I can’t speak directly to why he was (released on bail) at any time, but my presumption would be that it had to do with the bail statute,” said Brendon Thurston, the assistant Hillsborough County attorney who prosecuted Marshall in the Manchester case. “The general process with the new bail statute is that most offenders are released.”
In 2018, Gov. Chris Sununu signed into law a bail reform bill designed to keep defendants out of pre-trial imprisonment simply because they couldn’t afford bail.
There are two Senate bills this session on the issue. SB 91, which would make wholesale changes to bail reform, is still on the table. SB 314, which passed the Senate Wednesday, makes some revisions based on the recommendation of the Commission on Pre-Trial Detention, but retains the spirit of the original bill.
Prosecutors have criticized the law, saying it lets criminals back on the street to re-offend.
“The bail bill has made it evident to the offender population that they don’t need to show up (for trial) and they don’t,” Sullivan County Attorney Marc Hathaway told the state Senate during a recent hearing.
But even before that law went into effect, Marshall was avoiding his days in court.
In 2017, he was released on a $7,500 surety bond following an arrest by Manchester police for possession of crack cocaine and fentanyl.
He was scheduled to enter a guilty plea on Feb. 22, 2018, but never showed up, say court records.
A month later, Taylor, a bail bondsman who asked that only his first name be used, had to track Marshall to his grandmother’s house.
“We located him down in the basement behind a storage door that had been locked from the outside,” Taylor said. “He was in the back of the storage shed underneath some blankets.”
Marshall didn’t have any weapons on him at the time, Taylor said. The bail bondsman said he warned the court Marshall was an extreme flight risk if granted bail and had tried to escape in the past.
A judge sentenced Marshall to several months in Valley Street jail, but by that time he had already been arrested by Nashua police in a new drug case — the same one he failed to show up in court for on March 13.
Correspondents Kimberly Houghton and Jason Schreiber contributed to this report.