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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robberies
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: March 28 / May 5, 1992
Date of arrest: May 9, 1992
Date of birth: October 14, 1965
Victims profile: Sofia Fetter, 69 / Gary Marsh, 26
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Atlantic County, New Jersey, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on October 15, 1993. Commuted to life in prison

Sofia Fetter was a 69-year-old chambermaid, working at Harrah’s Casino Hotel in Atlantic City. On the evening of March 28, 1992, she was sent to clean Room 1134 in Harrah’s Harbor Tower - - where she was murdered, execution-style, shot in the head at close range.

Investigation was able to establish the presence of an unauthorized man in the Harbor Tower area, and video surveillancce tracked his movements before and after the time of Sofia’s murder. Ballistics testing of the bullets obtained from the hotel room identified the type of weapon used . . . a .380 caliber semi-automatic pistol. But there the trail ended.

During the pre-dawn hours of May 5, 1992, Gary Marsh was working alone at a Lawrence Township Exxon station. Gary was an honors graduate at Rider University. Looking forward to completing his aviation training, he took a part-time job at the Lawrence gas station. This was his fifth day on the job.

A co-worker arrived at six a.m. to start his shift, but saw no sign of Gary. He approached the office and saw Marsh’s body, sprawled on the floor with his head in a large pool of blood. He was barely alive when the co-worker called for the police, and paramedics who arrived struggled to get him breathing. Although taken by Medivac helicopter to a Camden hospital, he never regained consciousness and died that afternoon.

The autopsy determined that the cause of death was a gunshot to the head. The bullet entered over the left ear, penetrated his skull, passed directly through both hemispheres of his brain, and exited on the opposite side above the right temple. Both the bullet and its shell casing were recovered at the scene.

Four days later, Donald Loftin was arrested using Gary Marsh’s credit card to buy a computer. Subsequent searches of his home and car revealed the murder weapon, a .380 semi-automatic weapon, concealed under the dashboard. Both the bullet that killed Gary Marsh, and the bullet that killed Sofia Fetter, were identified as coming from the gun belonging to Loftin.

Donald Loftin was tried for the murder of Sofia Fetter in 1993, was convicted and given a life sentence with thirty years before parole. He was tried for the murder of Gary Marsh in 1994, convicted and received the death penalty.


Loftin admits murder at Lawrence gas station

By Linda Stein/The Times

Thursday May 01, 2008

TRENTON -- Although his conviction was overturned on appeal and a new trial set for Monday next week, Donald Loftin admitted Thursday in court that he killed Gary Marsh during the robbery of a gas station in 1992.

Loftin, 42, who had been on death row until his conviction was overturned last year, pleaded guilty to one count of murder and faces a 30-year prison sentence for the Marsh killing. Marsh, an honors graduate of Rider University, was gunned down while working part-time at a Lawrence gas station as he completed his training in aviation.

"I robbed and shot Gary Marsh at a service station on Route 1, an Exxon station," Loftin told Superior Court Judge Charles A. Delehey. "That's it."

Defense lawyer Steven Lember would not speculate as to why Loftin agreed to the plea shortly before the trial would have started, except to note that he might have been sentenced to another life term if convicted by a jury, while 30 years is "a fixed sentence."

The sentence will run consecutive to a life sentence that Loftin, of Bristol Township, Pa., is serving for the murder of a chambermaid in Atlantic County, also in 1992.

On Thursday, after Loftin's confession, Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor Doris Galuchie said that she was prepared for the trial to begin on Monday and that even though it was an old case, her witnesses were ready and able to testify. However, Loftin's admission means that the trial is off.


New Jersey Court Voids Death Penalty Conviction

By Ronald Smothers - The New York Times

June 6, 2007

TRENTON — The New Jersey Supreme Court on Tuesday vacated the murder conviction and death sentence of a Pennsylvania man imprisoned since 1994. The court ruled that the trial judge and two lawyers who represented the man had failed to pursue the potential bias of a juror.

Despite what it said was “overwhelming evidence of guilt” in the case of the man, Donald Loftin, the court said this failure by the judge and the lawyers so tainted the conviction that it ordered a new trial.

Mr. Loftin, 41, who is black, was found guilty in the 1992 murder of Gary Marsh, a Lawrenceville, N.J., gas station attendant. He was sentenced to death and has been on death row ever since.

“Denying an accused the right to an impartial jury is to deprive him of the very essence of a fair trial and therefore is not susceptible to a harmless error analysis,” Associate Justice Barry T. Albin wrote.

The events that gave rise to the ruling center on a white juror, a postal worker who told two black co-workers that he was ready to “go to the hardware store and buy a rope to hang this man with.”

The workers reported the conversation to the presiding judge, Paulette Sapp-Peterson. When the judge met privately with the juror and the lawyers, the juror admitted making the comment, but said it was a joke aimed at his colleagues, who he said considered him biased, according to the ruling.

Judge Sapp-Peterson, over the defense lawyer’s objections, returned the juror to the jury box, and when deliberations began the judge made him an alternate.

The Supreme Court ruled that the juror should have immediately been disqualified because of the comments and because of the possibility of his sharing his views with other jurors. The court faulted Mr. Loftin’s lawyers for not raising the issue in two previous unsuccessful appeals.

Whether the case will be tried a second time remained a question. Joseph L. Bocchini Jr., the Mercer County prosecutor, described the ruling as “upsetting to put it mildly.” He said his office would ask the court to reconsider its ruling on unspecified grounds. At least four justices, however, would have to agree to reconsider the case. The ruling was 6-1.

David B. Glazer, Mr. Loftin’s lawyer in the successful appeal, said that although he was “gratified” by the ruling, it would not have a significant effect on his client, who is also serving time for the murder of an Atlantic City hotel chambermaid. Mr. Glazer said, “But for this conviction he would not have been on death row all this time.”



Donald Loftin



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