The fetus inside the body of a woman found slain in a sugar cane field June 14 was fathered by the man accused in the killing, a Baton Rouge Police Department official said, citing findings from a crime lab report released Thursday.
But a lawyer for Robert Jovantie Marks said the evidence doesn’t link his client to the slaying of his co-worker Lyntell Washington, a 40-year-old Baton Rouge school administrator whose badly decomposed body was found nearly a week after she was last seen.
The case, which has drawn national intrigue, has involved dozens of lawmen who searched a 15-mile radius of bayous, fields and forests around the Ramah area for one day and who suspended the exhaustive multiagency hunt a few days before Washington’s body was found just outside Rosedale in the humid summer heat.
“Congratulations,” said Marks’ attorney Lionel “Lon” Burns on Friday, about the paternity finding. “Let us know when they find who Ms. Washington’s killer is.”
Marks — a 39-year-old assistant principal at Brookstown Middle Magnet School, where he worked with Washington — asked for Burns by name when questioned by police, according to Burns, who said he knew Marks before the ordeal but wasn’t a friend of his.
Burns said, however, that Marks wasn’t read his Miranda rights until after the Baton Rouge Police Department tried to have an “off the record” conversation with Marks. As a result, Burns said, any comments that police attribute to Marks, including that he admitted to having an extramarital affair with Washington, should be disregarded.
Baton Rouge police Sgt. Don Coppola said in response that the organization would not discuss details about the ongoing investigation.
A message to Washington’s sister, Cyntell Washington, wasn’t returned Friday. LaTafta Spivey, the slain school administrator’s friend, said she was unsure if a funeral has been scheduled but indicated a crowdfunding campaign was set up to raise $4,000 in funeral expenses for Washington, who was seven months pregnant.
Burns said authorities have been searching Marks’ house as recently as Thursday, having seized the accused man’s computer, motorcycle, pickup, cellphone and rifle. Some of the items have been returned.
Marks faces counts of first-degree murder, first-degree feticide, child desertion and aggravated kidnapping of a child.
East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner William “Beau” Clark said last week that Washington had been shot in the head. Her empty car was found splattered in blood in a parking lot June 9 near her unattended 3-year-old daughter, according to a Baton Rouge Police Department report. The girl said she was with her mother and “Mr. Robbie” when she heard a “bang” and saw “Mr. Robbie” trying to clean up the blood, adding that her mother was “in the lake,” the report says.
Burns has said Washington was found nowhere near a lake.
Burns said he was not sure if Marks owned any firearms besides the rifle. Coppola and Clark both declined to answer whether any bullets or shell casings were retrieved in the case.
Burns, who made two appearances this past week on the “Nancy Grace” show, said he thought he and Marks’ wife, Kala Marks, performed well on the current affairs program, even as Kala Marks admitted she was blindsided by the information her husband was having an affair and didn’t know whether her husband is innocent in the killing.
“I can’t say, ‘Oh, he definitely didn’t do this.’ I don’t know,” Kala Marks said on the show. “I’m just really confused.”
Burns said Kala Marks, too, has suffered in what he called “a tragedy all around.”
“She’s been tried and convicted by the public of being guilty for standing by her husband,” Burns said.
Follow Maya Lau on Twitter, @mayalau.
(Editor's note: A mistake was made in an earlier version of this story. Washington's body was found just outside Rosedale, not Grosse Tete.)