BELTON — Suspect Cedric Marks, shackled and cuffed, loudly and firmly proclaimed Friday morning in the courtroom, “Absolutely not guilty, your honor,” when asked how he pleaded to the charge of capital murder of multiple persons.
Marks said he was not present when Jennifer Scott, his ex-girlfriend, and Michael Swearingin, her friend, were killed, reportedly at a residence in Killeen. He said someone else was with Maya Maxwell — not him — his attorney, Michael White, told the Temple Telegram.
Marks is charged with the Jan. 3 deaths of 28-year-old Scott and 32-year-old Michael Swearingin, both of Temple. Maxwell is also charged with capital murder of multiple persons and tampering with physical evidence.
Marks maintained his innocence to White since their very first meeting, White said after the arraignment. Specific alibis and other details haven’t been discussed yet because it’s not known yet if the state will seek the death penalty. A defense team would need to be assembled for a death penalty case, he said.
White hopes a decision about the death penalty will be made within the next week.
Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza is still “concluding the investigation that has been conducted and will file the announcement in due time,” he told the Telegram Friday.
Bell County District Judge Fancy Jezek asked Marks questions about his guilt or innocence to felony charges of burglary of a habitation with intent to commit another felony and tampering with physical evidence. To each question he leaned down to the microphone and said, “Not guilty.”
Although he was in inmates’ orange scrub-type clothes and orange jail shoes, Marks’ didn’t appear cowed or intimidated by the courtroom appearance.
He has now pleaded not guilty to all charges — felonies and misdemeanors — against him, White confirmed.
If convicted of one or all of the felony charges against him, each sentence will be enhanced because of his previous felony conviction, Jezek informed Marks.
White e-filed motions for bond reductions about a week ago, but those weren’t addressed during the arraignment because the prosecution hadn’t yet received them.
Marks, a former mixed martial arts fighter, is agitated because no decision has been made by the state about the death penalty, and it has strained his relationship with White because he can’t have his own private investigator, White said.
White is a court-appointed attorney.
One issue brought up by White was that two private investigators were contacted by Marks without consulting him. Jezek said anyone wanting to be involved in the cases must go through White.
White discussed the issue about the private investigators after the hearing. He said one investigator declined to work the case, while the other was informed by White that no contact with Marks would be allowed unless he becomes a member of the defense team.
Some of the things Marks discussed with the possible investigators involved the case, not outside matters as Marks told him. He doesn’t want additional charges to be made against Marks, such as tampering with witnesses, retaliation or other matters that might come before a jury, White said.
While White didn’t know exactly who had visited with his client, he did know Marks’ brother, Otis Marks, was taking a definite interest in the case and had talked with Marks and White on several occasions. Two or three family members have contacted him in the last several months about the case, White said.
Marks is housed separately from other inmates at the Bell County Jail, according to White.
The Telegram could not get a list of Marks’ visitors at the jail because it comes within the zone of privacy issues, Bell County Chief Deputy Chuck Cox said.
A trial could be a year or two down the line, White said.
In the courtroom Friday were Swearingin’s mother, Deborah Harrison, and other family members. Their eyes were glued to the door through which Marks would enter the courtroom, and that was Harrison’s first time to see him after he was charged with her son’s homicide. Her body tensed up as he entered the room.
Harrison declined to comment.
Maxwell said in her sworn statement to investigators she was with Marks on Jan. 3 at a Killeen residence when Marks killed Scott and Swearingin. She said she helped him transport the bodies to near Clearview, Okla., where the bodies were placed in a shallow grave. The bodies were found Jan. 14.
Maxwell took Swearingin’s car to Austin and left it there to make it hard for law enforcement agencies to locate it, Maxwell reportedly admitted in an affidavit.
Scott’s death was caused by homicidal violence, an autopsy showed. Swearingin died of asphyxia caused by strangulation.
Maxwell, Marks and Marks’ wife, Ginell McDonough, were arrested Jan. 8 in Michigan at McDonough’s home. He was arrested for the burglary of Scott’s home, which reportedly occurred Aug. 21, 2018. Marks escaped the transport company bringing him back to Bell County, but he was recaptured in Conroe after a nine-hour manhunt by numerous law enforcement agencies.