Documentary renewed interest in cold case murder

LEFT: A mug shot of Aurelias Marshall. RIGHT: An undated courtesy photo of Joel Battaglia.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The suspect arrested in the 1990 beating death of a 23-year-old man was arraigned on murder charges Friday afternoon.

Aurelias Marshall, 56, was arraigned in Grand Rapids District Court for felony murder during robbery or attempted robbery, as well as open murder and being an habitual offender in the death of Joel Battaglia. He’s being held without bond and asked for a court-appointed attorney.

Marshall is expected to be back in court for a preliminary exam on Jan. 2.

During a press conference Friday morning, Grand Rapids police and Kent County Prosecutor Bill Forsyth said detectives identified Marshall as a person of interest from almost the beginning, but didn’t have enough evidence to file charges.

Police said they never closed the case, but their interest in the case was rekindled following the June 2014 release of David Schock’s documentary surrounding Battaglia’s murder. As a result, police looked at the evidence and re-interviewed people again. However, it didn’t lead to any more tips.

They wouldn’t provide any details on what led to the arrest.

The victim’s parents, Jerry and Gail Battaglia, were also at the police department as authorities announced the arrest.

Forsyth said the Battaglias have sent him Christmas cards for years. He received their card just two days before the arrest and was emotional during Friday’s press conference.

“I’ve done this a long time, some cases affect me more than others, as best you can you try to keep a distance because if you get too emotionally involved you’re not going to do this very long, but this is one I always wanted to get to this point for them, because i knew it meant so much to them, their friends and their family,” said Forsyth with tears in his eyes.

Battaglia, a Catholic Central graduate, was walking home from Mulligan’s bar in Eastown just before 2 a.m. on June 11, 1990, when he was brutally beaten and robbed of his wallet.

A probable cause affidavit obtained by 24 Hour News 8 shows Battaglia was “assaulted repeatedly” during the robbery. It also states that relatives, friends and associates of the suspect identified him as “being involved directly in the assault upon Christopher Joel Battaglia and the attempted and/or robbery of him during which he died.”

The affidavit said the suspect was involved in a “violent, violent child abuse” in the early 1990s and that he fled to Georgia after a warrant was issued.

State police records show he was he was sentenced in 1993 to 2 to 15 years in prison for child abuse. The record also shows convictions for bad checks in 1982 and again in 2003.

In October, Marshall was one of four charged with perjury in the case.

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