Two months after a Louisiana jury took just 35 minutes to convict a former assistant principal of murdering a former “Teacher of the Year,” the killer was sentenced to life behind bars.
Robert Marks, a 45-year-old former assistant principal in Baton Rouge, was sentenced Thursday to serve the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole after jurors found him guilty in December 2021 on charges including second-degree murder, kidnapping, and first-degree feticide.
The victim in the case, 40-year-old Lyntell Washington, was seven months pregnant with Marks’ child and was declared a missing person by authorities back in June 2016. At the time, a woman discovered the teacher’s 3-year-old daughter wandering a parking lot near her mother’s blood-spattered car. Detectives with the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office began investigating her disappearance, learning that she was pregnant at the time she went missing and that she had been having an affair with Marks. Marks was reportedly married to another woman at the time of the murder.
A week later, deputies discovered Washington’s body in an irrigation ditch at a sugarcane field. The coroner’s report listed her cause of death as a single gunshot wound to the head and used DNA records to identify the victim due to the severe decomposition of the body.
Marks was initially arrested and charged with aggravated kidnapping and child desertion two days after the discovery of Washington’s body. Deputies brought those charges after speaking to the case’s star witness: Washington’s 3-year-old daughter.
The report states that the toddler told deputies, “Mr. Robbie’ hurt [her mother] and now [her mother] was sleeping.” The toddler can also be heard saying, “Mr. Robbie did this” and “mommy went to sleep” during the 911 call made by the woman who first discovered the wandering child. WAFB first obtained the audio of that call.
In October, a grand jury indicted Marks on second-degree murder and feticide charges for the deaths of Washington and her unborn child. The coroner had reportedly completed a full autopsy of the victim by that time and identified Marks as the father of Washington’s unborn child.
Authorities said Marks told them he had met with Washington on the night she disappeared but said the two had a brief conversation in a local Walmart parking lot and went their separate ways, with that being the last time he ever saw Washington.
But investigators said they found cell phone records placed Washington with Marks for much longer than 15 minutes. Those records eventually led police to conclude that Marks likely shot Washington at a landfill in East Baton Rouge, put her body in the car with her daughter, drove to the next county over to dispose of the body, and then abandoned the vehicle and Washington’s daughter in a parking lot.
Marks and the defense were later able to delay the trial by arguing deputies had no way of knowing the murder of Washington took place. The judge eventually sided with the defense and moved the case to neighboring Iberville Parish, where deputies discovered the body. This required prosecutors in that district to build the case against Marks from scratch. Finally, in 2020, members of the grand jury in Iberville Parrish indicted Marks on charges of second-degree murder, feticide, kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping of a child, obstruction of justice, and four counts of illegal use of a weapon.
Bail in the case was reset to $885,000, which Marks was able to post.
Marks’ murder trial eventually got underway in December of last year, with prosecutors calling Washington’s now-9-year-old daughter to the stand early on in the proceedings. The young girl reportedly answered just two questions from prosecutors while on the stand, first identifying a photo of her mother and then confirming she was, in fact, the individual in a 2016 video that shows a toddler identifying “Mr. Robbie” as the man who made “mommy go to sleep” after a “loud bang.”
Later, the coroner who examined Washington’s body testified that her unborn child suffered no trauma and said medical professionals would have been able to safely deliver the baby since the victim had been in her final trimester.
The defense argued that no murder weapon had ever been found and questioned the testimony of Washington’s daughter, who at the time spoke of seeing her mother put in a lake. Marks’ lawyers, however, did not call any witnesses or deliver a closing argument.
Jurors began deliberating after four days of testimony. They took just 35 minutes to convict Marks of second-degree murder, feticide, kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping of a child, carjacking, obstruction of justice, and four counts of illegal use of a weapon.
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]