September 3, 2014

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Murder charge dropped, but Lorain man still a suspect

LORAIN — Prosecutors on Thursday dropped a murder charge against Marlo Sanford, who had been accused of gunning down 16-year-old Christopher Hill last month.

However, Lorain police Sgt. Mark Carpentiere said Sanford remains a suspect in Hill’s death.

“We had witnesses come forward, but they’ve refused to testify to the grand jury,” he said.

Sanford, 20, was released from the Lorain County Jail, where he was being held on a $2.5 million bond, on Thursday night.

Carpentiere said police still hope that witnesses will agree to testify or that other witnesses may come forward. He also said police are still awaiting the results of tests being performed on forensic evidence collected at the scene.

“This certainly doesn’t mean this case is over or closed,” Carpentiere said.

Christopher Hill was shot in the face about 5:15 p.m. on June 22 as he sat in a parked car at the corner of Long Avenue and West 18th Street and died a day later at a Cleveland hospital.

Sanford was arrested on June 27 at the office of his attorney, Mike Duff.

Duff said the evidence against his client wasn’t strong enough to support the murder charge and that Sanford had nothing to do with Hill’s death.

“I don’t believe he was the shooter,” Duff said. “He wasn’t involved.”

Duff also downplayed the witnesses who pointed police toward Sanford as a suspect.

“It was kids on the street who were just talking, people who have a motive to deflect attention away from themselves,” he said.

Assistant Lorain Prosecutor Jeff Szabo said during a brief hearing before Lorain Municipal Court Judge Thomas Elwell that the charge was being dropped after consulting with county Prosecutor Dennis Will’s office.

Szabo, who declined comment after the hearing, did reserve the right to refile the murder charge later.

Police are also continuing to investigate the shooting death of 18-year-old Marquis McCall, who was shot in the chest on June 22, five blocks from where Christopher Hill was shot. Also under investigation is a June 21 shooting in which two men were injured in a drive-by shooting near West 18th Street and Oakdale Avenue.

Police have not said if the shootings are connected.

Duff said he has told Sanford to get out of Lorain for awhile because he fears for his client’s safety.

“People are going to attribute this to him,” he said.

Carpentiere said that police share that concern.

“People could be dissatisfied and take matters into their own hands,” he said.

Sanford’s family declined to comment as they left the courtroom Thursday.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.