Sociopath: a person with antisocial personality disorder. Probably the most widely recognized personality disorder. A sociopath is often well liked because of their charm and high charisma, but they do not usually care about other people. They think mainly of themselves and often blame others for the things that they do. They have a complete disregard for rules and lie constantly. They seldom feel guilt or learn from punishments. Though some sociopaths have become murderers, most reveal their sociopathy through less deadly and sensational means. ~Urban Dictionary
Investigation Discovery featured the 2006 case of Rebecca Braswell and John Marmo, Jr. on a show called I’d Kill For You recently. This couple went through a bitter divorce and child custody battle that led to one of them taking lethal action to win. They met in the US Navy while stationed at Naval Air Station, Sigonella, Italy. They quickly formed an intimate relationship despite regulations prohibiting on-base dating. They kept their elicit fling a secret from their superiors for twelve months and then Rebecca learned that she was pregnant. She was very concerned about her superiors finding out because a single pregnant woman could face immediate discharge from the Navy. John was described by friends as an easy going, nice guy, who wasn’t a stressed out kind of person. John asked Rebecca to marry him to remedy the situation.
In February 2003, Rebecca Braswell had the baby. The marriage was considered troubled from the beginning. John was young so he was still hanging out and going out with friends while Rebecca felt that she was left home alone to take care of the newborn baby. She was insistent that he was abandoning her. Rebecca appeared to be very controlling and felt that she was the only one who could properly take care of the baby. Meanwhile if you want to stay in the Navy, you have to move up or move out. John was not selected for a military police position that he applied for and as a result was honorably discharged from the Navy. He was now considered a veteran and a military spouse. Rebecca’s career was doing better and she eventually got orders for the Seabees at Naval Base Ventura County at Port Hueneme in California.
Rebecca was working full-time and began to get upset that John was just laying around and unemployed. John was frustrated because he attempted to find work but it was impossible to find a job while taking care of a baby. Things became easier financially when John and Rebecca were finally able to move to on-base housing. But, John and Rebecca had the kind of relationship that revealed when passion turns to anger, anything can happen. One day Rebecca came home to John sitting outside with the neighbor having a beer. She was jealous and upset that John was hanging out with the female neighbor and had left the newborn baby inside the home unattended. Another fight erupted and resulted in Rebecca turning to some of her friends at work to vent about her current frustrations with her marriage.
Rebecca met another sailor, Shannon Butler, at the smoke pit at work on base. Rebecca began to regularly cry on the shoulder of her new friend. Rebecca shared that she couldn’t take the fighting anymore because John was crazy but she wasn’t sure how she was going to take care of the baby by herself. She claimed that she didn’t want to be in the marriage anymore because of John’s infidelity, and even claimed that John had hit her and abused her. After three troubled years, she eventually filed for a divorce and she was able to get a restraining order against him as well. He was angry about the restraining order and claimed that he never abused her and she was a lunatic. This was not a normal divorce or custody case, it was intense from the beginning.
John moved out of Rebecca’s house and into his female neighbor’s house next door after the restraining order. Despite the official custody arrangement, Rebecca continued to give John a hard time about custody and wouldn’t let him see their daughter. In June 2004, the divorce was final and full custody was granted to Rebecca. John got one overnight a week and every other weekend. John appealed the judge’s decision and in the meantime met Rebecca for the custodial exchange on the days he was allowed to see his daughter. Rebecca would find excuses not to let him take their daughter and the custodial exchanges became more and more volatile. Law enforcement had to be there, lots of military personnel had to get involved, and four months later it was court ordered that they do the exchange at a police department. The judge wanted to avoid any future domestic violence that was being alleged.
One night Rebecca approached John at the neighbors and finally admitted that maybe she had overreacted about the whole neighbor thing and that single parenting was harder then she thought. As a result, she invited John back into the home. John agreed to the temporary reconciliation but less then twenty-four hours after the arrangement, the police were called back to Rebecca’s home for another domestic disturbance. And now John was in violation of the restraining order so he got arrested. He swore to the police that she had set him up and that she was a crazy, liar, psychopath. John was unable to make bail so he sat in jail for ten days. John plead guilty to a deal that blew his chances of joint custody. John moved off base and into a friend’s house where he rented a room. He and his new roommate quickly formed a friendship.
In the weeks that followed, Shannon Butler moved in with Rebecca and John faced a new complaint every week just to jam him up. Rebecca and Shannon become very close and maybe even more then just friends, maybe even a couple. Shannon made Rebecca feel safe and kept her out of harm’s way. She was against John and wasn’t going to let him hurt her anymore. Once they were both out of the Navy, they could have an open relationship. Meanwhile, the fighting continued with John and now included Shannon. One day Shannon told some friends at work that John had her jumped by some Hell’s Angels. She showed them the injuries she sustained which included a black eye. Shannon told Seth Hardy and Matthew Toerner that John had told her to stay away from Rebecca. John had already violated a protection order so she didn’t feel safe.
The ironic part is that John was the first person to go to the police. John reported to the police department that he thought his wife was trying to kill him because he found a propane bottle under his car. John felt the police minimized his claim because Rebecca and Shannon claimed that he had beaten them up and followed and stalked them. But the dangers to John were what was escalating in severity. Then one morning when John walked outside around 6 a.m. to go to work, he was shot multiple times and died at the scene. The police found a shell casing and tire tracks. John’s roommate was convinced that Rebecca was involved. Because Rebecca was active duty Navy, the police needed to contact NCIS so they could go to base and speak with her. The detectives began with calling in Rebecca and then started interviewing her fellow Seabee friends including Shannon Butler. They used Detective Joe Evans because he was the best interviewer and the most non-threatening.
Rebecca claimed that she was home alone with her daughter. She also reiterated that John had beaten her up and had people follow her but other then that they didn’t get much from the young mother. They interviewed Shannon Butler next but she immediately asked for a lawyer. Then they went to their fellow Seabees to lock down a story. They spoke with Ivan Condit who was guarded about what he said. Seth Hardy told them that Marmot was beating her so he planted an explosive device, a propane canister, under his vehicle. Therefore he basically admitted to attempted murder. After this admission, he told the detectives to talk to Butler and Matt because he was done. Twenty-four hours later, Condit walked into the police station and told them what he knew. They used Rebecca’s gun to kill John Marmo and Rebecca still had it.
Police decided to use Condit to set up a trap. They wanted Condit to call Rebecca so they could have a conversation about getting rid of the gun. If Rebecca agreed, the police could then arrest her. Rebecca told Condit that she was not getting rid of the gun because she paid good money for it. She admitted to having the gun so police continued to have Condit pressure her to get rid of it. Five days after the murder, Rebecca finally relented but Shannon Butler showed up with the gun instead. Shannon’s attempt to get rid of the gun suggested that it was the murder weapon and she was arrested. Shannon was charged with murder and conspiracy to kill John Marmot. Rebecca was arrested for admitting it was her gun on the phone with Condit. Now police had a gun to match to the bullet casing they found at the scene to help prove guilt in a court of law.
When Rebecca was questioned again, this time she claimed that Shannon was obsessed with her and followed her around like a puppy dog. She maintained her innocence and claimed that she left the gun in the safe in the house and that maybe Shannon did it for her. Shannon was actively helping Rebecca with her custody battle after she was told that Rebecca was having trouble with her ex. The detectives felt like she had an answer for everything. Rebecca didn’t know that Shannon was also in police custody. Shannon broke down and told the police everything. She admitted that the stories about being atttacked by John were fabricated. She even admitted that Rebecca punched her in the face so they would have proof of the attack by the Hell’s Angels. Shannon admitted that she and Matt Toerner drove to John’s home and killed him. The detectives needed to speak with Matt next but he was shipped out to Okinawa the day after the murder.
When detectives finally caught up with Matt, he smelled of alcohol. They could tell that he had something going on that he wanted to get off his chest. He told detectives that both girls talked about how John had been beating them up and that he did it to protect his fellow Seabees. He admitted to shooting John 4-5 times and detectives could tell that it had weighed on him heavily. The detectives explained to him that he had been fed a pack of lies by these two women to get him to pull the trigger. They told him that Butler especially had manipulated him and that John Marmot was a father who had an ex-wife that caused huge issues for him. He never hit anyone, he just wanted a relationship with his daughter. Weeks after the murders, the police recovered text messages that showed Rebecca knew what was going on and was the one pulling the strings.
In the end, Seth Hardy was found guilty of attempted murder and got twelve years to life. Shannon Butler plead guilty to first degree murder and was given twenty-five years to life. Matthew Toerner and Rebecca Braswell were both found guilty of first degree murder but were sentenced to life without parole. The prosecutor said Rebecca Braswell was considered a pure sociopath. She made up the claims of abuse in an attempt to manipulate the court system so she could maintain sole custody of her daughter. She manipulated her friends into believing the abuse claims so they would take action to protect her and kill John. John’s family is now raising their daughter Heather. John is remembered for never giving up on his daughter. He loved her and just wanted a relationship with her. John’s case is another testament to the dangers of sociopaths. They may not be the one to commit the final violent act but they manipulate and pull the strings to make it happen with no regard for who gets hurt in the process.
A shotgun wedding leaves naval officers John Marmo and Rebecca Braswell in a troubled marriage with a baby. As the relationship crumbles, allegations of infidelity and abuse run rampant. A fierce custody battle pushes both sides in a deadly battle. -First to Die, I’d Kill for You (S3,E3)
Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $3.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict. Download the ID Go app or purchase ID True Crime Files & binge away.
Seabee deployed to Okinawa accused of killing former sailor in California
3 Seabees to stand trial in slaying
Warning signs ignored in Marmo killing
At murder trial, witnesses say Seabee spoke of harming man
Two Seabees found guilty in 2006 slaying
3rd Seabee convicted in Camarillo ambush killing
Ex-Seabees sentenced to prison for murder
2 Ex-Seabees Get Life for Ventura Murder
The People, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Rebecca Golden Braswell, Defendant and Appellant, Court of Appeals California (February 15, 2011)
Rebecca Braswell, John Marmo, Jr.: Investigation Discovery’s ‘I’d Kill for You’ Shocks with Story of Naval Seabees who Murdered Camarillo Man Over Child Custody
Shannon Butler: Life in Prison without Parole
Prosecutor: Navy Petty Officer Rebecca Braswell Considered a Pure Sociopath
I’d Kill For You Premiered ‘First to Die’ on ID: Contentious Child Custody Case Leads to Shocking Murder of Navy Veteran John Marmo (January 23, 2016)
First to Die | I’d Kill for You | Investigation Discovery (S3,E3)
First to Die | I’d Kill for You | Investigation Discovery (website)
First to Die | I’d Kill for You | Investigation Discovery (Prime Video)