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Marine Convicted of Killing Wife

May 4, 1991

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) _ A former Marine Corps officer who wrote a 26-step ″recipe for murder″ has been convicted of shooting his wife to death and hiding her body in the abandoned coal mines of eastern Pennsylvania.

A federal jury in Alexandria took 16 hours to find Robert P. Russell guilty of murdering Shirley Gibbs Russell, 29, a Marine captain who was last seen March 4, 1989, outside the Quantico residential quarters the couple shared before she demanded a divorce.

″I guess I’m the only one who really knows what happened,″ Russell said before the verdict was announced Friday.

He said he someday will write a book exposing what he said was a corrupt government investigation.

The jurors, who declined to comment, apparently struggled with their decision, announcing Friday at lunch time that they were deadlocked. They later asked U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris the definition of reasonable doubt.

By 6 p.m., the stalemate was broken, but only after Cacheris instructed the jurors to try again. Russell faces a mandatory life prison sentence. His sentencing hearing was tentatively scheduled for Aug. 2.

Ignoring defense claims that Shirley Russell is still alive and in hiding, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence J. Leiser said Robert Russell, 34, ″came close″ to pulling off the perfect crime.

″He’s a very bright guy. He thought it through very carefully,″ Leiser said.

Shirley Russell’s body has not been found, and no blood was discovered in the Quantico storeroom where Russell is alleged to have shot her. The .25- caliber pistol Russell bought days before the slaying has not been recovered.

What investigators did find, Leiser said during his closing arguments Wednesday, was Russell’s own ″recipe for murder″ - notes he stored on a computer disk several months before his wife disappeared.

Robert Russell’s mother testified during the eight-day trial that the computer entry was the beginning of a novel that she and her son were writing about the murder of a Marine officer’s wife.

She said she had written ″about two chapters″ but had thrown them in the trash long ago.

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