Bell County Jail officials disconnected an online video visitation service after a Houston TV reporter used the technology to briefly interview capital murder suspect Cedric Marks.
In the interview with KPRC2-TV reporter Sophia Beausoleil, the former MMA fighter said he was not guilty in the Jan. 3 deaths of two Temple friends, Jenna Scott and Michael Swearingin.
Marks, 44, of Killeen, claimed he wasn’t trying to escape when he got out of his restraints Sunday and fled a Conroe McDonald’s, sparking an extensive nine-hour manhunt in the Conroe area before he was found in a trashcan about a mile away. Marks is being held in the Bell County Jail in lieu of $1.75 million bail.
“I’m not really allowed to talk about that incident right now,” Marks told the station. “Despite what the media put out, I was not trying to escape. I was actually in fear, and I was not going anywhere at all …. Like I said, the media has put out a witch hunt for me, and I am not guilty.”
The Marks interview was conducted through a video visitation service that Bell County uses to let jail inmates talk to defense attorneys and family members. Users are required to submit their name and pay a charge, about $15, to talk by video with jail inmates.
Jail media policies
Reporters are prohibited from using the service because the jail does not allow media to use photography or video recordings in interviews, Maj. T.J. Cruz of the Bell County Sheriff’s Department said.
Jail officials cut the interview after several minutes when they determined a reporter was conducting an interview. Beausoleil did not identify herself as a reporter on the video service, Cruz said.
“About 13 minutes into the interview, it was cut off,” Cruz said. “That interview wasn’t done with our permission.”
A Telegram call to Jerome P. “Jerry” Martin, KPRC vice president and general manager, was not immediately returned.
Marks wouldn’t comment on how he escaped and claimed he’s innocent in the deaths of Scott and Swearingin.
“I can only imagine what’s going on with their family, and I am so sorry for their losses, but I did not and had nothing to do with this,” Marks said in the interview.
Marks was arrested in Michigan last month on a Temple Police charge alleging he broke into Scott’s home on Aug 21.
In the interview, Marks challenged the account of his girlfriend, Maya Maxwell, who told police Marks killed Scott and Swearingin at his Killeen home on Jan. 3, according to an arrest affidavit. She also said that she was present when their bodies were moved more than 350 miles north and buried in a shallow grave near Clearwater, Okla. Maxwell is currently charged with tampering with evidence in the Bell County Jail for allegedly moving Swearingin’s car to Austin.
Marks said he believes police forced Maxwell’s statements. “I believe that they coerced her and scared her and forced her to say some things, but none of this has involved me,” he said.
He is also a person of interest in the 2009 disappearance of April Pease, the mother of one of his children, according to police in Bloomington, Minn. The couple had been involved in a custody dispute in Washington state when Pease, who had a drug problem, went to live in a Bloomington women’s shelter because she said she was afraid of Marks, according to court documents.
Taylor-based Texas Prisoner Transportation Services, which handled Marks’ extradition, will shut down on Sunday, according to an email obtained by the Telegram.
“The purpose of this letter is to thank you for allowing Texas Prisoner Transport to serve your extradition and transport needs these last few years and to inform you that effective Feb. 10, 2018, (Texas Prisoner Transportation Services) will begin to wrap up its business affairs and cease operations,” Ryan Whitten, the CEO of Global Prisoner Services — the parent company of Texas Prisoner Transportation Services, wrote to Bell County Judge David Blackburn.
Since the Marks incident, Bell County has not been using Texas Prisoner Transportation Services, Blackburn told the Telegram. The county has started the process for bids for a new prisoner transport services, a process that will take 30 to 45 days. When the bids come back, the Commissioners Court will consider one for approval.
The contract with Texas Prisoner Transportation Services started on Sept. 1, 2016. Since then, the commissioners approved two one-year renewals with the Taylor-based company. Two one-year renewals remained.