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Haunted Lafayette: New York Street Murder

More gruesome than ghostly is one of the strangest murder cases in Lafayette history.

Posted: Oct 31, 2018 7:07 AM
Updated: Oct 31, 2018 7:15 AM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — More gruesome than ghostly is one of the strangest murder cases in Lafayette history. The final story in News 18 This Morning's "Haunted Lafayette" series takes us back more than 35 years ago, to one August morning in a neighborhood just south of downtown.

The following is an excerpt from Dorothy Salvo Davis and W.C. Madden's book "Haunted Lafayette."

"Marcia Heald, who may have been possessed, was convicted of brutally murdering a neighbor back in 1982 in a Lafayette apartment. On August 2 of that year, Marcia attended a poetry reading at the Smith's apartment at 601 1/2 New York Street. Shelly offered her couch for Marcia to sleep on, but she declined and went to her car instead. At 5:00 the next morning, Gerald Smith left his wife Shelly to deliver newspapers. Some time later, Marica awoke in the car and decided she had to return to the apartment and kill Shelly Smith because she believed her to be a serpent possessed by Satan. Shelly was lying naked under the covers. She looked like a snake to Marcia, who yelled, "Yahweh's kingdom come" and began stabbing her. Then she tried to remove the "snake's" head, because she felt like it would be rejuvenated if she didn't behead it. She went back to the bathroom, showed dressed and then left. She drove around for awhile an stopped and ate breakfast at a restaurant near Purdue University. Later that day, Lafayette police apprehended her and got a confession out of the crazed woman. Marcia was not your typical murderer. The Plainfield resident had been a librarian at the Indiana State Library. The divorced mother of two spent two Saturdays a month at the Indianapolis Children's Museum demonstrating weaving. However, she told court psychiatrists that she was Eve from the Garden of Eden. She pleaded innocent by reason of innocent by reason of insanity, but the judge ruled that she was competent to stand trial. Her attorney, Brent Westerfield, tried to get a continuance before the trial began, because he said his client wasn't competent to stand trial. Psychiatrists differed on whether she was insane. Two of the three determined that she knew what she was doing at the time of the murder. At the hearing, Marcia said "Human beings have no knowledge of my world. I am not a human being, I'm an animal. When asked who 'Messiah" was, she replied, "I am. My mission is to proclaim Christ, to replace religion with Yahweh, to replace law with Yahweh, to replace sanity with Yahweh. She added that she had died seven times and had been reincarnated each time. Marcia was the first witness for the defense. She began her testimony by claiming that her name was 'Mars, the God of War' and that she was 5,743 years old, but 44 years in her present form. She later testified, "I began seeing something in front of Shelly. I saw this face and I saw a snake. Yahweh was sending me messages. I could see something at her neck like scissors or knives. I said to myself, 'Is this the lady I have to battle with?'" A jury took only four and a half hours to convict the woman. The forty-four-year-old woman was sentenced to forty years for the murder and thirty years for burglary. In 1998, Marcia sought clemency for the murder. She said that she felt no remorse for what she had done but that she would not murder again if she were free. 'I think it was a test to see if I would be obedient, and I proved that I was, and the contract is finished.' she said during her public hearing. I think Yahweh owes me something this time because of what I did for him. Needless to say, her request for clemency was denied by the governor."

The last record we could find shows Heald is still alive, and being held in the Indiana Women's prison in Indianapolis.

Watch previous "Haunted Lafayette" stories below:

Amelia Earhart and Hangar Number One

The Pythian Home

The Tippecanoe County Triple Execution

The Lahr House Guillotine

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