BELTON — A Bell County judge said last August that he wasn’t comfortable with extending a protective order Jenna Scott sought against Cedric Joseph Marks, who is now a capital murder suspect in the Jan. 3 deaths of Scott and a Temple friend, Michael Swearingin.
Bell County 264th District Court Judge Paul LePak said he wasn’t certain about his ruling to deny Scott the two-year protective order, according to a transcript of the Aug. 15, 2018, hearing obtained by the Telegram
LePak took about a month to reach his decision, court documents show, and was not made aware of a reported Aug. 6 burglary of Scott’s home in which Marks later was charged.
“But I am not real comfortable with that ruling at all and so be cautioned,” LePak told Marks on Sept. 17 in connection with Scott’s application for a 2-year no-contact protective order. “The request is denied at this time.”
Marks, 44, of Killeen, fled Texas after a burglary warrant was issued for a break-in at Scott’s home in Temple
“I am not super comfortable with my ruling but I find that what I heard was very likely defensive measures and so I don’t think it’s appropriate for a protective order,” LePak ruled.
LePak did not return a call from the Telegram on Wednesday.
Court records indicate that Scott and Marks had a turbulent relationship with accusations on both sides accused of violence.
Scott testified that Marks assaulted and choked her at least three times in 2018.
She testified that never called police because she said she was afraid of Marks and he always talked her into coming back. Scott said Marks convinced her that “whatever he did to me was in self-defense and he convinced me of that and I believed him,” Scott said.
Marks admitted in testimony that he did choke her from behind, but claimed he did that in self-defense from an attack she reportedly made on him.
Marks accused Scott of manipulating him and others so she looked like a victim, and said her parents always got her out of trouble.
“It may seem that a tiny 106-pound woman would make me flinch of all people,” Marks said. “I’m this big tough guy who fights in the cage but I fight men. Well, she knew that I don’t hit women.” He said women aren’t made to be hit and that’s why he was a self-defense teacher for women.
Marks also stressed that it takes a lot of force to hurt him because of how strong and powerful he is.
Threats and fights
Scott testified that Marks would provoke her to trigger an argument and cause her to “act out” because he knew she struggled with post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder. Scott said Marks needed drama in his life and relationships to survive.
“There’s regular people that need love, they need support. This isn’t what this man is capable of,” Scott said. “He gets — he gets his, you know, whatever keeps him going, it comes from a place of evilness," the transcript said.
Marks made videos of the couple’s arguments and physical fights, as well as pornographic pictures and videos he took of Scott, too, she testified.
Scott testified the level of violence Marks demonstrated escalated before she broke up with him, and he’d threatened her family.
Scott was in therapy and counseling and talked about how much she’d turned her life around since her time of addiction and mental illness. She said threats Marks made could have possibly destroyed her future and her dream to be a professional counselor.
“So yes, I tried to hide it. Yes, I was concerned for my life and my career and for my teacher, yes,” Scott said. “And now today, I realize that my safety should never have taken the back burner to my career.”
Scott said in her testimony that Marks threatened her recovery and future. At that point in her life, he was a physical threat to her and her family, she said.
Kaylee Biddy, a witness for Scott, said during the hearing that Scott told her about Marks’ attacks. She said Scott told her she was “afraid for her life.”
Carol Benningfield, a Belton attorney who represented Scott, questioned Marks about his violation of the temporary protective order against him and an assault charge he filed against Scott. Benningfield pointed out his charge was filed the same day he was served a temporary protective order to stay away from Scott.
He also talked about how he lessened his 15-year prison sentence for aggravated robbery. Marks was released in seven years because he took courses that took time off his sentence and was a “model prisoner.”
Marks talked about the 2004 aggravated assault in Copperas Cove in which a jury acquitted him in August 2007. He said the assault was in self-defense.
Benningfield told LePak additional things happened since the last hearing, but didn’t share it during the hearing.
The additional information would have been the Aug. 6 burglary of Scott's home, for which Marks was later charged and brought back to Bell County.
At the end of testimony on Aug. 15, LePak said he needed to “clear his head and make a good appropriate ruling.” He issued a temporary protective order without a finding of family violence. Marks was advised to not have a weapon, commit no family violence or threaten it and not go within 200 years of Scott’s home, job or school. LePak expected to make a decision before the end of the month, he said.
Capital murder charges
Marks escaped Sunday from a transport van in Conroe, north of Houston. He had been brought from a Grand Rapids, Mich., jail on a Temple burglary warrant related to the incident at Scott’s home.
Marks was recaptured after an hours-long manhunt and returned to Bell County.
Marks’ girlfriend, 26-year-old Maya Maxwell, told Temple Police detectives that Marks killed Scott and Swearingin at his Killeen home, according to an arrest affidavit released Tuesday.
Maxwell said she took Swearingin’s car to Austin to hide it from law enforcement agencies and then was with Marks during a trip to Oklahoma, where Scott and Swearingin were buried in a rural area near Clearview, Okla.
Maxwell is charged with tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, a third-degree felony, and her bond was set at $500,000 after she was extradited from Michigan to Bell County.
Marks’ wife, Ginell McDonough, 37, remained Wednesday in a Grand Rapids jail, charged with obstructing justice/obstructing (other). Her bond was set at $75,000.