Inmate found hanging in county jail identified
BY DIANNA WRAY - DWRAY@VICAD.COM
April 9, 2012 at 8:01 p.m.
Updated April 9, 2012 at 11:10 p.m.
Victoria residents remember Marcus Duprey Washington as the man who shattered the calm of a school campus with gun shots, but his family and friends recall a joyful person who seemed to be finally finding his way in life.
Washington, 40, was found hanging in his cell in the Victoria County Jail on Saturday evening. He had been in federal custody since the shooting at Victoria College last fall, though it is still unknown if that was why he was being held.
Washington was raised by his grandmother in Victoria and was a star football player at Victoria High School in the late 1980s, childhood friend Nikki Dawson remembered.
His grandmother was a good woman who raised him right, but he seemed to get lost around the end of high school, Dawson said.
His police history dates back to 1993 and included convictions for burglary of a vehicle and sexual assault. Washington served his entire 16-year sentence for the assault.
His grandmother died while he was in prison, Dawson said.
He was released from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice unit in Huntsville on July 7, according to criminal history records.
"He was so different from how he looked on paper. He was raised right. I think that's why he got caught so much," Dawson said.
Dawson visited Washington in Victoria after he was released from prison, and was encouraged by the person she saw.
"I was seeing a different path for him. He was his old self again, full of joy," she said.
But he was charged in September with two counts of possessing a weapon where prohibited and two counts of aggravated assault after the shooting at the college gymnasium.
Washington's attorney, Patti Hutson, was appointed by the court shortly after he was arrested in connection with the shooting in September. While they were waiting for him to be indicted, Washington was taken into federal custody and Hutson had little contact with him, she said.
"They wouldn't even tell me where he was," Hutson said.
Washington remained in federal custody after he was arrested in September and was moved to various facilities over the course of the following months, Victoria County Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor said.
In December, Washington was indicted on an aggravated assault charge for an incident where he threatened a Victoria woman with a knife, stating that he would kill her, her children, her boyfriend and anyone else who was around, according to court records.
He was not indicted on charges stemming from the incident at Victoria College at the time of his death, Hutson said.
Victoria District Attorney Steve Tyler said he was working with federal authorities to prosecute jointly.
Federal authorities planned to charge him with a felon in possession of a firearm, Tyler said. Tyler planned to prosecute him on three counts of aggravated assault and one count of attempted murder.
It was agreed that federal prosecutors would indict him before Tyler did, Tyler said.
Tyler already had a case for aggravated assault, so he indicted Washington for that.
"I guess he'll answer to a higher court now," Tyler said.
Washington began taking medication for bipolar disorder while he was in prison, his uncle Alton Stafford said.
It is unclear whether he continued taking the medication after his release.
When he was taking his medication, he was fine, Stafford said.
Stafford said the family was shocked after Washington was arrested as a suspect in the shooting. There had been no signs, he said.
"I'm at a loss. I really don't know what exactly made him change like that," Stafford said.
Washington's family told Hutson that her client had a history of mental illness, but Hutson said the medical officials at the jail told her he was fine, and that he had not requested treatment or had any complaints.
There was no indication of any problems when Washington arrived back at the Victoria County Jail on March 30, O'Connor said.
Dawson visited Washington in jail the month after he was arrested. He was focused on being positive, she said. She tried to see him after that, but he had already been transferred.
She learned he was found dead in his cell on Sunday.
A suicide note was found with his body, O'Connor said.
Jail officers administered CPR before he was transported to Citizens Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, according to the news release.
An investigation, including an autopsy, will be lead by the sheriff's office, U.S. Marshal's Service and the Texas Rangers.
"The pressure of trying to fit in with everybody else might have been too much," Dawson mused. "He was good. He had such a good heart."