FLOYD — Kyle Joseph Marchon will stand trial in his girlfriend’s death despite a medical examiner’s determination that she killed herself, Floyd County Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Branscom said Tuesday.
During a hearing in the county’s Circuit Court, Branscom agreed with defense attorneys that the state crime lab in Roanoke concluded that Suzanne B. Cabaniss died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound — but said he expected the manner-of-death determination to change before Marchon goes before a jury.
Dr. Gayle Suzuki, an assistant chief medical examiner, did not have a detailed report from the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office when she made her ruling that Cabaniss’ December death was a suicide, Branscom told Judge Marc Long. Suzuki now has investigators’ report, which covers what officers saw at the house that Cabaniss and Marchon shared.
Attorney Jimmy Turk of Radford replied that the ruling of suicide was in writing and, at this point, Suzuki would be the defense’s chief witness.
Long scheduled a two-day jury trial to begin Sept. 23, and also set a July 16 hearing to resolve any pre-trial matters.
Marchon, 34, has been jailed since being charged about five weeks after Cabaniss’ death.
He faces a charge of murder and an additional charge of the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
At a March hearing, attorney Dave Rhodes of Christiansburg, who is defending Marchon with Turk, recounted how on the morning of Dec. 6, Marchon called 911 to report that Cabaniss had shot herself in the forehead.
Rhodes said Cabaniss was depressed after the deaths of two relatives and losing custody of her daughter, and she and Marchon were splitting up.
In letters found after she died, Cabaniss wrote about suicide, Rhodes said.
Branscom said in March that the officers who answered Marchon’s call to the home in the 600 block of Long Level Road found a substance that preliminary tests indicated was methamphetamine, and that a blood test of Marchon was positive for that substance.
Marchon was fully clothed and pulled a pair of gloves on and off as officers looked around the house, Branscom said in March.
Cabaniss, still breathing when officers and rescue workers arrived, wore only a pair of men’s underwear. She had a bullet wound to her forehead and a .38 caliber pistol was near her.
Marks in the carpet showed that the couch on which Cabaniss lay face down had been moved, Branscom said.
Marchon gave varying stories to investigators about where he was in the house when he heard a gunshot, and also about whether he had removed guns from the residence because of Cabaniss’ depression — besides the pistol, investigators found six firearms and ammunition there, Branscom said.
Contacted Tuesday after the hearing, the medical examiner’s office in Roanoke said that Cabaniss’ cause of death was determined to be a gunshot wound to the head, and the manner of death is still listed as suicide.