I-Team: Family of 74-year-old Machesney Park woman searches for answers after her murder

Published: Aug. 3, 2021 at 10:45 PM CDT
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WINNEBAGO COUNTY, Ill. (WIFR) - One grieving family is on a journey for justice after their elderly loved one is brutally murdered in her Machesney Park home.

74-year-old Ellen Marsh’s life was abruptly cut short in January, and now her family wants to know why her alleged killer was out on furlough.

“She saw the good in everybody,” said Tim Marsh. She wasn’t afraid of anybody.”

Grief grips Tim Marsh as he remembers his mother Ellen. His wife Amanda also in disbelief they’ll never see Ellen again.

“I wish I could snap my fingers and go back six months and prevent the whole thing from happening,” said Tim Marsh.

Ellen lived in a home on Old Harlem Road in Machesney Park for more than 20 years with the police department less than five minutes away.

“She loved where she lived,” said Tim Marsh. “She felt safe. She didn’t live in fear.”

The couple says on the night of Jan. 31 they were going about their ordinary routine when something very out of the ordinary happened.

“I got a call from one of moms neighbors saying ‘Timmy there’s police everywhere they’re trying to figure out your moms whereabouts’,” said Tim Marsh. “I got that phone call and then Amanda looked at me and just knew that something was wrong.”

Just minutes away from Ellen’s home, Tim got a call from detectives who told him his mother was dead. When the couple got to the house, officers confronted them with questions.

“Do you know a man named Shane or did your mom?,” Amanda Marsh said police asked the couple.

Tim didn’t know who that was and knew his mom didn’t either.

Shane Bouma is a frequent flyer in the Winnebago County Jail with a criminal history dating back to 1997. On that fateful day, court documents say Bouma got into an argument with his girlfriend. After she called the police, Bouma took off looking for a place to hide. Police say that’s when Bouma spotted Marsh in her home, knocked on her door, pushed his way inside and strangled her to death. Bouma then allegedly staged the scene to look like a burglary and took off with her car.

“You hear about home invasions happening and you know they exist and that they’re out there, but you never expect that it’s going to happen to you or someone you know,” said Tim Marsh.

Learning what happened to Ellen was a tough pill to swallow for the couple and left them with more questions than answers.

“Why did it happen,” said Amanda Marsh. “And that’s when we slowly started to learn that he was furloughed.”

Furlough’s temporarily let an inmate out of jail. Winnebago County State’s Attorney J. Hanley says some common reasons can be if an inmate wants to attend a funeral or if they’re going to a rehab center to get treatment for substance abuse.

“While I didn’t have the job at the time and the prosecutor who agreed to the furlough is no longer in the office I still have the live with the decisions of the office before me,” said Hanley.

Hanley says Bouma was out on furlough to attend a rehab facility in Rockford for treatment, but stopped showing up.

“The lag time there was about three weeks where the court or pre-trial services didn’t know that Mr. Bouma had left and then when he didn’t show up for his court date everyone knew then that he wasn’t in the jail, he wasn’t at the facility and he wasn’t in court so a warrant was issued,” said Hanley.

Hanley says lawyers and the judge must agree to the terms of the furlough which can include alerting pre-trial services if an inmate stops showing up for treatment. But, Hanley says that wasn’t in Bouma’s agreement.

“I can’t go back and change that,” said Hanley. “Believe me I wish I could.”

Hanley points out though that not all furloughs end this way.

“There’s lot of successful furloughs, but there’s also furloughs that we object too and aren’t granted,” said Hanley.

But, it didn’t go that way in Ellen’s case.

“We ultimately feel that this was preventable,” said Amanda Marsh. “He should have been behind bars.”

Now her family will have to live with that pain forever.

“I wish I would have known so I could have just hugged my mom one more time and said goodbye,” said Tim Marsh. “Cherish the time you have because it can be over in an instant.”

Hanley says since taking office his team has noticed furlough orders aren’t always consistent and moving forward he’s created a standard order which includes alerting pre-trail services.

23 News reached out to the 17th Judicial Circuit Court in Winnebago County for comment, but because the case is ongoing leaders say they can’t comment.

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