Three decades after 1987 murder of Carrie Marshall in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, her children and grandchildren continue to seek answers

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By Andrea Cavallier

Three decades after the beloved matriarch of the Marshall family was found stabbed to death inside her Lancaster, Pennsylvania home on December 7, 1987, her children and grandchildren haven’t given up looking for her killer.

On the anniversary weekend of 57-year-old Carrie Marshall’s murder, her granddaughter, Paula Marshall Matters, told Dateline the entire family is still greatly affected, even all these years later.

“So many years have passed without answers,” said Paula, who is the daughter of Carrie’s youngest son, Paul Marshall. “My whole family, my father and my uncles especially, they were just destroyed by this.”

Carrie, who was described by her family as a strong and kind woman, raised seven sons and a daughter. Her husband, Israel Marshall, died two years before Carrie’s murder.

After the death of her husband, the mother of eight worked as a kitchen aide at Conestoga View nursing home and volunteered at the Welsh Mountain Community Center.

In 1987, Carrie was living in a brick rowhouse on South Duke Street with her son, John Marshall, when she was killed. John, who was in his 30s at the time, had been away that weekend for a stint as an Air Force Reservist at Willow Grove Naval Air Station.

Paula said her grandmother loved to play bingo and won a large sum of money on the Friday night before she was killed. On Saturday night, Carrie had dinner with a friend and went to a neighbor’s house to see Santa Claus.

A friend of Carrie’s wanted her to stay over because there were rumors of people in the area who targeted bingo winners, Paula told Dateline. But Carrie refused and said she was fine staying at her house alone.

“She was tough,” Paula said. “She said she wasn’t worried about no one.”

That was the last time anyone heard from Carrie.

On Monday, December 7, 1987, it was Carrie’s son, John, who found her body in the early morning hours after he returned from the naval air station. He called police at 12:49 a.m. They believe Carrie had been murdered just hours earlier on December 6.

John told family members that when he got to the house and saw all the doors were ajar, he knew right away something was wrong. He walked upstairs and found his mother’s body. Carrie was wearing a red nightgown and according to investigators with the Lancaster Bureau of Police, had been stabbed more than a dozen times with a sharp object.

Carrie also suffered 15 minor cuts on her arms that indicated she tried to defend herself, police said.

“She was tough. That’s one big thing I remember about her,” Paula said. “She wasn’t going down without a fight. And she fought.”

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Paula was only eight years old when her grandmother was killed. But she remembers the night everything changed for her family.

“I remember being woken up in the middle of the night and being taken to a friend’s house,” Paula told Dateline. “I knew something was wrong. My parents were very upset. But I didn’t know why.”

Paula said the next thing she remembered was the funeral.

“I remember sitting on my father’s lap and crying,” Paula said. “And seeing how upset everyone was.”

Paula said that throughout the 90s, her father and uncles went to the police station regularly looking for answers.

“It really took a toll on them,” Paula said. “They’ve been through a lot. Especially for Johnny. He’s the one who found her. It really changed life for him. For all of us.”

According to newspaper articles at the time of Carrie’s murder, police thought it might have been a botched burglary or that her home was broken into by mistake.

Over the past 32 years, investigators from the Lancaster Bureau of Police have interviewed dozens of people about Carrie’s case, but say no substantial leads have been developed.

Carrie’s murder was not the last tragedy in the Marshall family.

On Father’s Day in June 2019, one of Carrie’s grandchildren, 44-year-old Anthony Marshall, was gunned down at a party on Lafayette Street in Lancaster.

Police said the shooting stemmed from a confrontation among people at the party. Shawn Nasim Connelly, 20, was charged in connected to his death.

Police say the two killings in the Marshall family are not related.

Paula told Dateline the death of her cousin gave her even more reason to seek answers in her grandmother’s murder.

“It’s so much tragedy for one family,” Paula said. “But it made me even more strong, and determined to find out who killed my grandmother. I’m stubborn, I’m not going to stop.”

Over time, the visits to the police station by Paula’s father and uncles have lessened, but she says it’s time for the grandchildren to take charge and look for answers.

"This is all we’ve known our whole life,” Paula said. “We’ve been witnesses to what our family went through and it’s not going away. Not until we know for sure what happened.”

Lancaster Police Captain Michael Winters told Dateline that so far their investigation hasn't focused on one suspect in Carrie's murder.

"Over the years, our detectives have considered several people who were potential suspects, often based on tips and information developed through the investigation, however, the investigation has not focused on any one individual or persons," Capt. Winters said. "At this point, no one has been completely excluded either."

A number of detectives have worked on the case throughout the years as people have moved on and retired. Detective Tobey Hickey confirmed to Dateline that he is actively investigating Carrie’s case and is continuing to follow all leads and tips that come in.

"They have made great progress with the investigation in the last three years and have given us some hope that the case may be solved someday," Capt. Winters added.

"Now more than ever, we believe there are people who know what happened, either because they were involved or they talked to the person or persons who did this murder and they have yet to come forward or were not completely truthful when they were interviewed," Capt. Winters told Dateline. "We have interviewed dozens upon dozens of people connected with the victim and people who may have knowledge of what happened and through those interviews, it is apparent that there are some people who know what really happened to Carrie Marshall."

Paula said she hopes fresh eyes on the case will help get some answers.

“Continuing to tell her story is the most important thing,” she said. “I’m hopeful someone who knows something will come forward.”

Anyone with information regarding the murder of Carrie Marshall should contact Lancaster Bureau of Police at 717-735-3300 or Lancaster City/County Crime Stoppers at (800) 322-1913, or you can anonymously Text a Tip to Crime Stoppers by using your cell phone. Text LANCS ,plus your message to 847411. Callers may remain anonymous and do not have to give their names.