LAWRENCEVILLE - Shannon Marlow, affectionately known as "Buzz," was a tech school dropout with a penchant for crack cocaine when he courted Patricia Rabold, a union that in six months would carry all the latent pressure of a ticking time bomb.
Sometime around Valentine's Day last year, the couple's problems reportedly came to a head in the foyer of their Norcross home, their shouts turning to fists, blows landing. After dropping the woman, Marlow walloped her a few times with the blunt end of an ax, not trying to kill her, but to "knock her (expletive) back out," he said in a recorded interview played in court Tuesday as evidence.
Testimony in Marlow's murder trial began Tuesday and concluded with the telling interview. Charged with murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and theft by receiving stolen property, the 34-year-old faces life in prison.
On tape, Marlow claimed his violent tendencies were triggered by either schizophrenic paranoia or an acid flashback. To his paranoid mind, he claimed, Rabold was in cahoots with a hitman. He claimed she was a hard-drinker who would "fight you like a man."
"I thought she was going to kill me," he said a couple hours after a SWAT team pulled him from the attic of Rabold's Norcross home, according to police. "I freaked out. I don't have my psychiatric medicines. Sometimes I get paranoid and do things."
Investigators contend Marlow was clear-minded and lashed out at his girlfriend on purpose. After the killing, he told police, he took Rabold's Saturn to a motel in Tucker, where he smoked crack and marijuana to calm his nerves.
On tape, Marlow joked with police, at one point reciting his Miranda rights nearly verbatim to himself.
"I deal in reasonability," Gwinnett police Sgt. Steve Shaw testified. "It was just unreasonable that his fear of her, while she's laying on the ground, caused him to walk to a different room and grab an ax."
Marlow and Rabold, 47, lived together on Edgemoor Drive, the scene of a roughly seven-hour SWAT standoff triggered when police - tipped off that Rabold was wanted by other jurisdictions and living at the home - stumbled on her bloody body, wrapped in a blanket in the foyer. The ax, apparently spattered with blood, rested against a nearby wall.
As SWAT team members closed in on Marlow in the attic, he nearly fell through the ceiling, his leg cascading drywall on the victim directly below, SWAT team Sgt. Patrick Gunter testified. Two robots deployed in the home had found no trace of the hiding man.
Several officers testified the hue of Rabold's bare legs - like "gray sweatpants," one officer noted - suggested she was killed days prior to the discovery of her body.
At one point in the recorded interview, Marlow likened his bouts with Rabold to ground warfare in Vietnam. Or, as one investigator put it, "mortal combat."
"You have to understand my paranoid mind and my normal mind," Marlow allegedly told his interrogators. "When I'm paranoid, I'm scared of everything. She's the enemy."
Testimony is expected to resume this morning.