A little over a week after he died under mysterious circumstances at the Defence Force Headquarters, Chaguaramas, Lance Cpl Curtis Marshall was buried under full military rites yesterday.
Hundreds of soldiers, in formal uniforms, made their way to the San Juan Church of Christ, Ryan Street, San Juan, with Marshall’s relatives for his funeral which began promptly at 2 pm.
It was free of controversy except for a comment by Marshall’s uncle, Jeffery, in his vote of thanks, in which he poked fun at pathologist Dr Hubert Daisley.
Jeffery said: “I would like to say a special thanks to Dr Daisley who messed up the entire family when he came out and told us one story and came two days after with something different.” His comment was met with laughter and cheers from his relatives, including Marshall’s wife, Ashlyn.
Daisley conducted the second autopsy on Marshall’s body at a private funeral home in Laventille on New Year’s Day after his death last December 29.
His initial findings were that Marshall died of asphyxia consistant with strangulation. His findings corroborated the first autopsy which was performed last week Monday at the Forensic Science Centre, St James, by pathologist Dr Eastlyn Mc Donald-Burris.
Daisley, however, changed his tune last Friday after he performed further tests on Marshall’s body and visited the area where Marshall died.
Daisley, who is expected to release his official report tomorrow, claimed his initial findings were incorrect and that Marshall died from a severe asthma attack.
Following Daisley’s error, another pathologist, who claimed to have witnessed the initial autopsy, Dr Valery Alexandrov, entered the fray and defended the original cause of death given for Marshall.
Alexandrov performed a separate autopsy on Sunday at the family’s request and stated afterwards Marshall’s body showed signs he was strangled.
Marshall’s funeral was filled with several musical performances by his friends as well a litany of hymms which were included in the short programme.
Raymond Elias, who presented one part of Marshall’s three-tier eulogy, explained that Marshall was fond of singing, especially during church services.
Elias noted he was loved by the younger members of his community as he trained a youth football team and provided others with counseling and motivational talks.
Marshall’s best friend, David Best, in his portion of the eulogy said being a soldier was Marshall’s dream job.
“He was destined to be a soldier,” Best added.
He said after leaving secondary school, Marshall tried several jobs before he enlisted in the T&T Regiment in 2004.
“He wanted to be in the army to serve his country,” an emotional Best said.
T&T Regiment Detachment Commander Lieutenant A Ferguson spoke of Marshall’s professional life during his career in the Defence Force which lasted a little over eight years.
Ferguson described Marshall as being well-rounded and multi-faceted.
Ferguson said he had the all physical attributes of a “perfect soldier.”
“He had brute strength and was built like a tank. He also had a high level of aerobic fitness,” Ferguson said.
After the funeral, Marshall’s body was taken to the St James Military Cemetery, Long Circular Road, St James, where he was buried under military rites which included a procession towards the cemetery as well as a 21-gun
Defence Force chief speaks
In an interview after the funeral yesterday, Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier Kenrick Maharaj came to the Daisley’s defence.
“With the first autopsy, it was Old Year’s Day. We (Defence Force) did not have all the information to provide to the pathologist (Mc Donald-Burris). More information was available to Dr Daisley,” Maharaj said.
Maharaj said Daisley visited the base and was able to see where Marshall was when he collapsed as well as the area where he worked and slept.
“There has never been a case in our 50 year history of soldiers killing soldiers. We have had accidental deaths in our history. This is not how we live as a family,” Maharaj noted.
He said his officers were feeling the exact same emotions as Marshall’s family but they (Defence Force) ensured that his family were not exposed to emotional stress during their grieving period.