Real Name: Rachel Helena Timmerman
Nicknames: No known nicknames
Location: Cedar Springs, Michigan
Date: June 3, 1997
Details: Rachel Timmerman of Cedar Springs, Michigan, came from a broken home and was just seventeen when she had her daughter, Shannon. On the night of August 7, 1996, Rachel, then eighteen, left a party with forty-three-year-old Marvin Gabrion, a family friend, and two other men. After stopping in a field, Marvin ordered the other two men out of the car and then drove off with Rachel. He then violently beat her and raped her three times. She told her mother, Velda, that she was afraid to press charges because Marvin had said that, if she did, he would kill both her and Shannon. However, the next day, she reported the rape to police. After a six month investigation, on January 20, 1997, Marvin was arrested and charged with rape. He was released on bail two weeks later. According to Rachel's family, the rape had a horrible effect on her, both physically and mentally. She had much difficulty trusting others.
In the months following the rape, Rachel attempted to turn her life around. She began focusing her time on Shannon, her family, and her work at a local restaurant. However, as the date for Marvin's preliminary hearing came closer, she worried about having to testify against him. She told her parents that he had threatened her several times. She also said that she was having recurring nightmares about him and believed that he would kill her. Her father, Tim, told her that he would help her with the trial. However, according to her parents, on June 3, 1997, she seemed happy. She told Tim that she was going on a date with a man, and that the man told her to bring Shannon along. She also told Tim that she would be home within a few hours, but that time came and went. She and Shannon did not return and were never seen again.
The next day, Tim received a letter, allegedly from Rachel. It said that she was going on vacation. He was concerned because she had just started her job and was supposed to testify soon. On June 5, Marvin had his preliminary hearing, but Rachel did not show up. Without her testimony, authorities were forced to drop the rape charges against him. Eleven days later, the prosecutor for the case received a letter, allegedly from Rachel, that was postmarked from Little Rock, Arkansas. It said that she had tried to have sex with Marvin, but when he refused, she made up the rape allegation. The prosecutor did not believe that she wrote the letter; she believed that Rachel was in danger.
The same day, Tim also received a letter postmarked from Little Rock. It, also allegedly written by Rachel, said that she and Shannon were fine and that she would soon call him. However, she never did so. Two weeks later, on the morning of July 5, the decomposed body of a young woman was found in Oxford Lake. It was later identified as Rachel's. She had been wrapped in chains which had cement blocks padlocked to them. She also had duct tape over her mouth and eyes. Disturbingly, the autopsy determined that she had drowned; she had been thrown into the lake alive. No trace of Shannon was found in the lake.
Authorities theorized that whoever kidnapped Rachel forced her to write the letters on June 3. After dumping her into the lake, the killer then mailed them. From the beginning, there was one obvious suspect: Marvin Gabrion. Authorities went to his home and found cinder blocks on his property that matched those found tied to Rachel's body. Authorities now believe that he killed her in order to prevent her from testifying against him at his trial. However, he fled the area before police could arrest him.
Curiously, Marvin was not the only person that turned up missing in the police investigation. The first person to do so was Wayne Davis, a friend of Marvin's, who was one of the two men kicked out of the car on the night of Rachel's rape in 1996. He had agreed to testify against Marvin at his trial, but he vanished a few days after Marvin was released from jail.
John Weeks was the second person to go missing; he was an acquaintance of Marvin's and a friend of Rachel's who had asked her out on a date a few weeks prior to her death. He was later identified as the person that picked her and Shannon up on the day of their disappearances. He vanished in late June 1997.
Authorities brought in the FBI to investigate the bizarre case. They discovered that Marvin was using the alias "Robert Allen". The real Robert Allen is a transient who vanished in 1995. Authorities believe that all three men were murdered by Marvin.
In October 1997, Marvin was arrested in Sherman, New York; he was found to be cashing Robert Allen's social security checks. A few days later, he appeared at an identity hearing in New York. Initially, he denied that he was Marvin, but his identity was soon confirmed. Although he is the prime suspect in Rachel's case, he has not yet been charged.
Suspects: Marvin Gabrion is the prime suspect in Rachel's murder.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the April 10, 1998 episode. It was also profiled on FBI: Criminal Pursuit.
Results: Unresolved. In June 1999, Marvin was officially indicted for Rachel's murder. Several witnesses claimed to have seen him with her and another man (believed to be John Weeks) near Oxford Lake the day after she vanished. The witnesses recalled him driving a distinct pickup truck with a boat attached. Two days after that, his neighbor saw him dragging a metal boat on his gravel driveway. The neighbor also saw him pulling out two life vests, three concrete blocks, and a length of chain from the boat. He then pulled it into his garage and ground off the serial numbers.
When police searched Marvin's home, they found two keys that matched the padlocks found on Rachel's body. Also, the concrete blocks at his home were stained with the same tar and paint materials as those attached to Rachel’s body. Marvin's nephew later led investigators to his campsite near Oxford Lake. They found bolt cutters, another length of shiny chain, duct tape, a woman’s hair clip, and silicone nipples for a baby bottle.
Several witnesses also testified to Marvin's propensity for violence. Two described how each of their homes had been set afire shortly after a disagreement with him. Another described how he began shooting a bolt-action rifle towards his home after he told him to leave a party there. Another described how he trained a rifle on her and her two-year-old child as she walked to her car one day, and then climbed into his and followed them for miles. Another testified as to how he sexually assaulted her in her home. Another testified that he beat and kicked him, punched his wife in the face, and then punched his teenage son, after the witness interrupted a card game to retrieve heart medicine for his uncle. Yet another said that Marvin claimed he could shoot anyone in the neighborhood. The next day, his house was shot at by him.
In March 2002, a federal jury convicted Marvin in Rachel's murder; he was later sentenced to death. Wayne Davis' body was found in July 2002; he was killed in a similar fashion as Rachel and Marvin remains the prime suspect. However, Shannon Verhage, John Weeks, and Robert Allen remain missing. Marvin appealed his sentence and conviction, but it was upheld in 2006. In 2011, his death sentence was overturned. However, it was re-instated in 2013.
Investigators are almost certain that Shannon is deceased. While awaiting trial for Rachel's murder, Marvin gave another prisoner a map of Oxford Lake, on which he had written, "body of 3, 1 found". While incarcerated, he also told two inmates that he "killed the baby because there was nowhere else to put it."
- Rachel Timmerman on Unsolved Archive
- Marvin Gabrion on Wikipedia
- Mich. murder suspect caught in NY - October 15, 1997
- Jury investigates drowning death - May 16, 1999
- Mother hopes for justice after suspect is indicted in her daughter's murder - June 30, 1999
- Longtime suspect indicted in death of teen mom - June 30, 1999
- Feds seek death penalty for Michigan man - February 28, 2001
- Trial to begin in drowning case - February 9, 2002
- Rape suspect facing murder trial Monday - February 10, 2002
- Michigan readies for rare death-penalty case - February 10, 2002
- Man convicted of murder in death of rape witness - March 6, 2002
- Suspect convicted in federal murder trial - March 6, 2002
- Man gets death for killing rape accuser - March 17, 2002
- Appeals court says jurisdiction correct in mothers killing - March 15, 2008
- Supreme Court asked to address Marvin Gabrion 1997 murder conviction - January 9, 2009
- Date of vandalism has deep meaning for Rockford woman - June 30, 2011
- United States v. Gabrion - May 28, 2013
- Marvin Gabrion's death penalty reinstated in 1997 killing of young mother - May 28, 2013
- Appeals court affirms death sentence - May 29, 2013
- When will teen's killer, Marvin Gabrion, be executed? - January 12, 2017
- Teen murder victim's family finds solace as foster parents - January 15, 2017
- On death row, Marvin Gabrion plans appeal in woman's 1997 killing - December 3, 2018
- Cold Case Cedar Springs: The Disappearance Of Baby Shannon - September 30, 2020
- Rachel Timmerman on Find a Grave