Woman convicted in Swain County murdersWritten by Caitlin Bowling
The three-week trial of Tiffany Marion for her role in the 2008 murders of two Swain County men ended with a guilty verdict this week, despite Marion’s claims of being a bystander along for the ride.
Marion, 28 of Decatur, Ga., was found guilty Monday of two counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder, two counts of robbery with a dangerous weapon and first-degree burglary. She received to two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole, followed by another 278 months.
There were allegedly six involved in the murder — a foursome from Atlanta and two local boys who led them to the house of Scott Wiggins and Heath Compton. Three defendants pleaded guilty; a fourth committed suicide in jail. The final suspect, Mark Goolsby of Sylva, will be tried later this year.
During the trial, Marion testified that she did not know her friends were planning to rob and murder Wiggins and Compton and that she had remained outside in the van during the crime.
Marion’s story was corroborated by the other suspects, who testified that Marion stayed outside during the crime. Prosecutors didn’t attempt to dispute her claim, but successfully argued that her involvement nonetheless rose to the level of first-degree murder.
Marion said she didn’t realize plans for a robbery were in the works when she and her friends left their hotel room at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and headed out for Wiggins’ home. Marion said she thought they were merely going to buy drugs.
Marion claims she was lying under the covers when one of the local “white boys” hanging out with them announced that he wanted to smoke more marijuana and knew where they could buy some. When she saw her friend Jada McCutcheon leaving, she grabbed her stuff and headed to the van with them.
“I wanted to smoke with them,” Marion said. “I didn’t want to be left out.”
Marion sat in the passenger seat and listened to the music that played loudly over the radio as Jeffrey Miles, who was later deemed the triggerman in the murders, drove.
“I was real mellow, real laidback, zoned out,” Marion said.
The van came to a stop and several passengers hopped out. Within a couple of minutes, Marion said, she realized that she was the only one left in the van except for Goolsby.
“I pretty much couldn’t see anything. It was dark,” Marion said.
Marion stayed in or near the van chain-smoking cigarettes. And, “I don’t remember anyone talking about crime,” Marion said.
In McCutcheon’s various retellings of the night, she always said that Marion stayed by the van. However, McCutcheon said, “I am pretty sure everybody knew” about the robbery.
Marion has maintained that she never saw any guns during the trip to North Carolina, did not hear Miles load the shotgun outside the van and never heard any shots while she sat in the van.
She did not know how long the others were gone, but Marion said it was hours, during which she smoked and slept.
“It felt like I was in the van for a while,” Marion said. “It felt like hours.”
Suddenly out of the darkness, the other local boy who had gone up to the house, Dean Mangold, came running toward the van, yelling and breaking the deadly silence.
“It sounded like he said, they were shooting. ‘Get out of the car,’” Marion said.
Marion testified that she thought Mangold was hallucinating as a result of the ecstasy they’d been taking, and she did not hear any gunshots. When Mangold and Goolsby asked her to run away with them, Marion said she decided to stay with the van because she did not trust the two strangers and was afraid they might rape her.
After the boys left, Marion once again fell asleep in the van. She awoke and decided to stumble toward what seemed to be the lights of a house, hoping to find McCutcheon. As Marion approached Wiggins’ house, she told her friends that the white boys had run off and urged them to hurry up.
“You all need to come on and come on now,” Marion recalled telling them.
Marion returned to the van and later returned to Georgia where she continued to hang out with the group.
She was arrested several days later in an apartment filled with stolen goods from Wiggins’ home, even his dog. But, she claimed she never knew murders had taken place that night.