Suspect charged in Marsh murders from 1974 - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

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Suspect charged in Marsh murders from 1974

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - A former Youngstown man, already serving life in prison for two murders, is charged with the 1974 murders of a Canfield couple and their four-year-old daughter.

On Thursday, the Mahoning County Grand jury handed down a five count indictment against 64-year-old James P. Ferrara. The charge include three counts of aggravated murder, one count of aggravated burglary and one count of robbery.

Ferrara is accused of murdering Benjamin Marsh, his wife Marilyn and their daughter Heather on December 14, 1974.

Ben Marsh had been shot four times according to news archives, his wife beaten and shot, and their toddler beaten to death.

The bodies of the three victims were found in their South Turner Road home in Canfield Township.

The couple's son Christopher, who was a year old at the time was miraculously found alive inside the home, but he was covered in blood according to news archives.

Detective Patrick Mondora gave the news to the surviving victim and family and says, "They're very happy, they're very, very happy."

According to Detective David Benigas, who has now retired from the sheriff's department, "We just decided to pull these cases out and take a look at them and when you see the crime scene photographs of that little girl, it's just..."

Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene says the hard work and persistence by both detective paid off with a major breakthrough because of fingerprint evidence found at the scene all those years ago. He says the detectives never gave up.

They credit crime lab experts and investigators from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation for having preserved the evidence from the triple murder for nearly 40 years.

In 2009, at the request of two Mahoning County Sheriff's Detectives, BCI ran the fingerprints through the computerized "APHIS" system, a database for fingerprints that wasn't available until 1985, and it paid off. It linked Ferrara to the crime scene according to Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains.

"After running the test BCI notified the two detectives that three latent prints were identified as belonging to Mr. Ferrara. Mr. Ferrara was arrested for two murders in Franklin County in 1983 and convicted of those crimes in 1984. He's currently in prison," Prosecutor Gains said.

Detective Benigas says one of the reasons it took four years to file charges after receiving the positive match on the fingerprint evidence is because they needed to go back and re-interview people and build the case against Ferrara.

His name had never been mentioned as a suspect in the past.

"It was very, very difficult to find evidence after that amount of time. I mean most organizations purge their records so it was a lot of interviewing people one on one, and finding people that worked at GM back then. So it was a long process," Benigas said.

According to records from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Ferrara is serving a sentence of 20 years to life in prison for a conviction on murder, robbery and drug crimes committed in Franklin County, Ohio in 1983.

Ferrara was indicted on three counts of aggravated murder for each of the victims.

According to Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains, Ferrara faces life in prison on each count in the Marsh triple murder case if convicted.

Ferrara would not be subject to the death penalty because the murders were committed shortly before Ohio had re-instated the death penalty.

A 1972 Supreme Court decision struck down capital punishment around the nation after the high court ruled that the punishment was being issued arbitrarily.

At the time of the crime, investigators believed that the murders occurred during a break-in at the Marsh's home.

Authorities speculated that the intruder was seeking a valuable coin collection owned by the previous owner of the home.

The only item believed missing from the home was Marilyn Marsh's car.

The vehicle was later found in the K-Mart parking lot on Mahoning Avenue in Austintown.

There were other suspicions that victim Ben Marsh's position at General Motors as a security officer somehow played a role in his death, as well as that of his wife and daughter.

Authorities are seeking a court order to bring Ferrara from the Marion Correctional Institution where he is currently being held, to face charges in Youngstown.

Investigators would not say whether more arrests are possible in this decades old murder, but they will say the case is not closed.

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