One of the oldest cold cases in Santa Cruz County is that of Vera Marshall. The case has remained unsolved for nearly 70 years; one would presume that this case and its supporting evidence remains locked away, collecting dust on a lonely shelf of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s department evidence room, lost and forgotten.
However, as cold as this case maybe, it is anything but forgotten about. In fact much of its evidentiary contraband remains on display at the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s department, carefully incased behind a glass exhibit case for all to ponder.
The unusual story takes place on a cold brisk month in January of 1948. Vera Marshall a rather eccentric recluse and formidable hoarder, shuffled about her meager cottage, which was busy with household items, stacks of paper work, nick-knacks, cobwebs and dirt in every corner and every shelf space as far as the eye could see.
Mounds of garbage in some rooms, stacked nearly 4 feet high and an odor that would make your eyes water if you wandered in too far- permeated throughout the small cob webbed filled cottage. But Vera didn’t mind, she didn’t even notice. After her husband’s passing four years earlier, the solitude and mounds of debris somehow kept her void filled, perhaps it was a reminder of her lost love, as the debris in the house had been accumulated for at least over a quarter of a century, maybe it kept her home from feeling empty, or perhaps her heart. Despite the 68 year old woman’s peculiar behavior and practice for collecting “stuff” the wild silver haired woman had another strange talent, one which occasionally brought her visitors as well as, a few extra bucks.
You see, Vera Marshall was a self-proclaimed fortune teller. With a stack of tarot cards, an egg yolk in a cup and a clear crystal ball which sat on a small wooden table in a corner of the cluttered living room, the elderly woman often would entertain paying guests who were seeking a glimpse into their future.
However, on the evening of January 22nd of 1948 – The seeress would have been better served foretelling her own future, as on this day the 68 year old fortuneteller, would soon find it to be her last.
It is believed two assailants entered the home of Ms. Marshall, perhaps under the pretense for a reading. However, the grim scene to follow was straight from a horror movie. The following morning a nearby neighbor went to visit Ms. Marshall, as she had often done many previous times before. As she called out to Ms. Marshall, hoping to engage in a morning cup of coffee, the neighbor grew increasingly concerned to not hear a reply from the boisterous Ms. Marshall. Upon entering the home, the neighbor noticed Ms. Marshall slumped over in a chair, next to her table where her crystal ball sat.
However, the neighbor was not prepared for what she noticed next. Blood splatter painted over the cobwebbed filled walls, reaching the ceiling down to the floor, in an exaggerated stream of dark red spray which covered the walls of the small cottage. Blood dripped from Ms. Marshalls head and ran down her arm, pooling onto the floor below. Her face and head unrecognizable, she had been bludgeoned to death.
It would appear an intruder bearing misfortune upon Ms. Marshall had violently attacked her. The police upon investigation found a ball peen hammer outside of the premises, stained with blood and brain matter. Police surmised it was someone robbing the elderly woman and believed it to be more than one assailant. Neighbors thought it was perhaps a distant relative who despised the aging hag, while still others surmised it was perhaps an unsatisfied customer whose fortune was misread and was motivated by money. Whatever the case maybe the assailants, would never be discovered.
If robbery was indeed the motive, the thieves were believed to only have made off with a few bucks. However it would soon appear that the thieves had lost a vast fortune to spite their dastardly deed….
Ironically after the process began to clean up Ms. Marshalls residence, truck load by truck load, while sifting through the garbage filled cottage, a small fortune was soon discovered. As workers opened up old shoe boxes, dresser drawers, coffee cans, paper bags…thousands of dollars were uncovered, as the cleanup efforts continued, they soon would also discover gold and silver coins tucked away in every little crevasse and corner of the house. Overall upward of $ 6,000, was recovered from Ms. Marshalls home......It would seem the fortune teller, had a fortune after all, one that she would never foretell.....