Tenn. police arrest suspect in cold murder case from 1997

Ginny LaRoe, Staff Writer

Copyright 2006 Chattanooga Publishing Company 

Police arrested a suspect this week who they said shot and killed a man in 1997 after the victim stepped outside his home to see if burglars he heard ransacking the next door duplex had left.

Marcell Marbury was captured in Chattanooga Monday and is being held at the Hamilton County Jail on $250,000 bond. He is charged with first-degree murder. Another suspect being held in another jail is expected to be booked in jail here soon, police said.

"It's a good feeling to be able to take one of those unsolved cases and mark it as cleared," said Detective Bill Phillips, who works cold cases for the Chattanooga Police Department.

Edelmar Soto Ortiz was 30 at the time of the Jan. 12, 1997, killing.

Detective Phillips said Mr. Ortiz heard burglars rummaging in the duplex next door to his 1600 E. 14th St. home.

When he thought they left, Mr. Ortiz went out of his front door, encountered the suspects and was shot in the chest, police said.

Detective Phillips said the suspects will not be charged in connection with the home invasion because the statute of limitations has expired.

"At that time, the home invasions on the Hispanics was pretty common," Detective Phillips said. "It was pretty well known (by criminals), there would be several people in a house, their checks would be cashed Friday, and there was a lot of cash in the house."

Detective Phillips said he and Detective Mike Tilley cracked the nine-year-old case after months of re-interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence in several jurisdictions.

Sgt. Tim Carroll, head of the homicide unit, said good detective work, improved technology and the fact that more witnesses have been willing to come forward with information helps solve old cases.

"I think more people who historically didn't want to get involved if they witnessed a crime are coming forward now," he said. "I think people are fed up with crime. Period. End of story."

There were 36 homicides in 1997, and eight remain open, police said.

The detectives said they have tried unsuccessfully to reach the family of Mr. Ortiz, who was active in the Spanish ministry at Highland Park Baptist Church.

Detective Phillips said Mr. Ortiz lived with his wife, a child and two brothers.

E-mail Ginny LaRoe at glaroe@timesfreepress.com 
March 15, 2006

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