Peggy Beasley Rayburn

Peggy Beasley Rayburn and her son, Brandon Crow

When Peggy Beasley Rayburn realized her husband of 15 years had been routinely drugging and raping her, she was embarrassed and apprehensive about reporting the crimes. But ultimately, she found the courage to tell police and file for divorce. 

Marshall Rayburn, 63, was arrested last month — an important first step toward justice for Peggy Rayburn, her family said. When he was later released on bail, records show he was assigned a GPS ankle monitor and prohibited from coming within 100 yards of her St. Francisville home.

Despite those protections, he barged into her house the night of Sept. 20 and shot Peggy Rayburn to death before killing himself. He also shot a neighbor who survived, and whose witness account was relayed to The Advocate. 

While mourning the loss of a beloved great-grandmother and prominent member of the St. Francisville community, family members and local law enforcement say the attack revealed serious shortfalls in a system meant to protect domestic violence victims from their abusers.

"This was a failure on multiple levels," her son Brandon Crow said. "Like, what the hell happened here? Was nobody paying attention to this ankle monitor?"

Peggy Rayburn died from gunshot wounds after her estranged husband showed up at her property, spent hours hiding in a backyard laundry shed and finally snuck into her house to terrorize her one final time. 

The neighbor rushed over after hearing Peggy Rayburn scream at about 11:30 p.m. last Monday. She said she found Marshall Rayburn holding a knife and a chloroform-soaked rag.

He opened fire on both women. After killing his wife, he sat down in her favorite armchair and turned the gun on himself.

All the while, Marshall Rayburn had a GPS tracking device encircling his leg. But local law enforcement never got notification of his whereabouts that night.

The company in charge of the GPS tracking, American Electronic Monitoring, based in Tupelo, Mississippi, did not respond to multiple requests for comment Sunday.

Sam D'Aquilla, the West Feliciana Parish district attorney, said authorities are investigating what went wrong with the ankle monitor.

"This just breaks my heart," he said. "The system failed."

For years before the deadly attack, Marshall Rayburn sexually abused his wife, according to police reports.

When she contacted police last month, Peggy Rayburn said he was drugging her with sleeping pills and raping her after she passed out, West Feliciana deputies wrote in an arrest report.

One morning, she woke up with him asleep on top of her. Then, she walked into the kitchen and found a pill crusher next to his Ambien bottle, deputies said. There was also an almost-empty water bottle with a straw inside and white powder residue at the bottom.

Peggy Rayburn told deputies she was already taking anti-anxiety medicine at night. She thought her husband was waiting until after she took her medication, then slipping Ambien into her drinks. 

"She stated that she would not remember anything after that, and would wake up with semen on her body," the arrest report says.

Then she discovered a file on their home computer containing naked photos taken while she slept, deputies said. 

The allegations gave law enforcement enough evidence to arrest Marshall Rayburn on a count of second-degree rape. Records show he was booked into the West Feliciana jail Aug. 4.

A few weeks later, he was released on bail — with seemingly stringent restrictions, including the ankle monitor and restraining order.

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But on Monday night, Peggy Rayburn found herself vulnerable to attack, alone with her abuser and screaming desperately for help.

Messages for West Feliciana Parish Sheriff Brian Spillman went unanswered Sunday, but D'Aquilla said the monitoring company never contacted local law enforcement to alert them that Marshall Rayburn was in the area that night. If that had happened, Peggy Rayburn would probably have seen police swarming her neighborhood, D'Aquilla said.

Her son said the man arrived in St. Francisville at about 9:30 p.m. and parked at an AT&T substation near the house on Ruth Street. He was then caught on security footage placing duct tape around his ankle monitor. That may have been what disrupted the signal.

Another two hours would pass before the man confronted Peggy Rayburn in her living room. The family believes he posted up in her exterior laundry room, waiting for her to step outside, and that when she did, he slipped into the house.

Authorities later recovered his wallet and other belongings from the laundry room, including a backpack with more knives, zip-ties and saws, according to the family. He came without a gun — but retrieved one from inside the house during the confrontation.

"It's like something out of a movie," Crow said. "Apparently, this guy had plans to do some seriously sadistic s***."

The neighbor stood between husband and wife, using herself as a shield.

Marshall Rayburn shot her twice. The first round struck her calf. The second bullet passed through the flesh by her collarbone and fatally struck Peggy in the forehead.

The women were on the phone with emergency dispatchers throughout the attack.

D'Aquilla, who listened to a recording of the 911 call, said the audio is chilling. He said the attacker never really raised his voice, while Peggy Rayburn screamed hysterically for help.

Peggy and Marshall Rayburn had been married for about 15 years. They met while working together at the River Bend nuclear plant in St. Francisville.

Until she spoke out about the sexual assaults, there was no indication of violence in the relationship, Crow said.

Since retiring five years ago, Peggy Rayburn spent much of her time with her children and grandchildren. Crow said his son would Facetime her for hours, just chatting about his youth baseball team and other matters of interest. She hardly ever missed a game.

She also took spontaneous trips, like driving to Maine just for the lobster, Crow said. On quiet evenings at home, she sat in her favorite chair knitting or crocheting. 

The Rayburns were well known in the community as devoted members of First Baptist Church in St. Francisville, where they often volunteered their time.

Marshall Rayburn suffered from a lung condition that required constant oxygen treatment. He struggled to walk more than 20 feet without pausing to catch his breath, Crow said, which makes his final actions even harder to comprehend.

During Hurricane Ida and for a couple weeks after, Peggy also had family staying at her house, so she was never really alone — until a few days before her death.

Crow said he wonders whether Marshall Rayburn had been lurking around the area before that night. He wants the monitoring company held accountable.

"When the sheriff calls you crying, telling you the system failed, you know how much your mom meant to that community," he said. "We need some answers."


Email Lea Skene at lskene@theadvocate.com.

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