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Blind Faith: A Murder That Didn’t Add Up

Back when Rolling Stone was in magazine form, c. 1988, I bought a copy because it had Guns N’ Roses on the cover. Oh God, I loved them. But aside from interviews with Slash and Axl and probably talk of that “November Rain” song, there was also an excerpt of an upcoming book “Blind Faith” by Joe McGinniss.

McGinnis had already risen to Ann Rule heights of true crime fame with “Fatal Vision,” the story of a Green Beret who murdered his pregnant wife and two daughters and blamed it on hippies. In “Blind Faith,” McGinniss explores a somewhat similar crime: a man named Robert Marshall is trapped in an unhappy marriage, and is also having an affair, drowning in debt, and feels the only way out is to murder his wife (after he increases her life insurance policy to $1.5 million). And blame it on robbers. Robbers, Marshall claims, who must have seen him winning at the casino the night of the murder, then followed him after he and his wife left, in the hope that their car would get a flat tire. Then when the car did get a flat tire, hope that Marshall wouldn’t pull over to a nearby rest stop, but instead choose an unlit side of the highway. Then, once he did, they robbed the couple, shot the wife, Maria, but only hit Marshall over the head with a tire iron.

Though this is an alibi worthy of a kindergartener (if a kindergartener could dream up such things) and Marshall is clearly guilty, McGinniss keep you reading by delving into the characters: the three Marshall sons left behind with divided loyalties; the town of Toms River, NJ, where Robert Marshall felt he needed to keep up with the Jones’; Marshall himself, the classic narcissistic, sociopathic antagonist; and Maria Marshall, by all accounts a devoted mother and woman who, for reasons known only to her, still loved her husband and wanted him to love her back. Question: How much did Robert Marshall love her? Answer: He never bothered to pick up her ashes from the funeral home.

“Blind Faith” was a best-seller which in the dark, dark days before Netflix meant it was turned into an awful network TV movie, with Joanna Kerns (then a star of “Growing Pains”) as the doomed Maria Marshall. If one good thing came out of all this tragedy, it’s that Kerns played real-life matchmaker between Marshall’s eldest son, also named Robert, and Tracey Gold, an actress who played Kerns’ daughter on “Growing Pains.” Though their marriage has had its rough parts (Google if you want to learn more), it’s survived far longer than the one chronicled in “Blind Faith.”