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View Full Version : VA VA - Shirley Gibbs Russell: USMC Captain, 29, Quantico, 4 March 1989


Richard
03-23-2006, 09:52 AM
Shirley Gibbs Russell
Missing since March 4, 1989 from Quantico, Virginia
Classification: Endangered Missing

Vital Statistics
Date Of Birth: September 22, 1957
Age at Time of Disappearance: 29 years old
Height and Weight at Time of Disappearance: 5'11"; 130 lbs.
Distinguishing Characteristics: Black female. Black hair; brown eyes.
AKA: Captain Shirley Gibbs

Circumstances of Disappearance

On March 4, 1989, Shirley Gibbs Russell, a captain in the United States Marine Corps, disappeared from her married officers' quarters on the Quantico, Virginia, military base. Her husband, Robert Peter Russell, was subsequently charged with her murder.

Shirley had separated from her husband just a few weeks earlier, after having been married for about a year and a half. Though Robert Russell was living off base and Shirley Russell had moved to the Quantico bachelor quarters, they returned the weekend of March 4th to the apartment they had shared on base to finish cleaning it out, according to law enforcement officials.

The Government's case against Russell comprised only circumstantial evidence. Neither the victim's body nor a murder weapon was ever recovered, and there were no witnesses to the crime. The Government's theory was that Russell, a former Marine Corps officer who had recently been discharged for disciplinary reasons, shot his wife behind the ear with a .25 caliber pistol while the two were in a storage shed adjacent to their quarters, and then dumped her body into a mine shaft in Pennsylvania. The jury apparently accepted this theory; it returned a guilty verdict on May 3, 1991. Russell was sentenced to life imprisonment on August 2, 1991.

Gibbs' credit card, savings, and checking accounts have all been inactive since her disappearance, and the property that she placed in storage has remained undisturbed. Exhaustive searches for Gibbs' body in Quantico, Virginia, and St. Clair, Pennsylvania, have been unsuccessful. Her drivers license and passport are also missing.

Investigators
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Naval Criminal Investigative Service Headquarters, Washington, DC
202-433-9225 or 1-800-479-9685

Agency Case Number: 93-0003
Please refer to this number when contacting any agency with information regarding this case.

Source Information:
The Washington Post
Robert Peter Russell
Court Opinions and Actions Taken
Doenetwork.org

Richard
03-24-2006, 10:43 AM
Here is some contemporary press coverage of the trial of Robert Peter Russell who was convicted of murdering Shirley Gibbs Russel. Many more details are included in the newspaper accounts. Shirley's body has never been found. This was the first Federal Case in which a murder conviction was obtained without a body.
-----------------------------
The Washington Post
February 9, 1991, Saturday, Final Edition
SECTION: METRO; PAGE B4
HEADLINE: Murder Charged in Missing-Wife Case
BYLINE: Robert F. Howe, Washington Post Staff Writer
BODY:
A Pennsylvania man was arrested near his home yesterday and charged with murdering his wife, a Marine Corps captain who was last seen almost two years ago in the quarters the couple shared at the Quantico Marine Base.

The case against Robert Peter Russell, 33, was described by law enforcement officials as the first federal murder case in which the victim's body was never recovered. Shirley Russell, 29, who had sought a divorce from her husband shortly before her disappearance, was never found despite an intensive search by local and federal agencies in Northern Virginia and Pennsylvania. U.S. Attorney Henry E. Hudson said this kind of case is "obviously more difficult because you have the added burden of proving that a death occurred . . . . That necessarily has to be proven by circumstantial evidence, and that is the course we will take."

Robert Russell, a former Marine Corps captain, was arrested about 10 a.m. yesterday at the State Correctional Institution in Graterford, Pa., where he worked as a drug and alcohol counselor, according to law enforcement officials. Russell resigned from the Marine Corps in the late summer of 1988.

Russell is expected to be transferred to Alexandria over the weekend and arraigned Monday morning in U.S. District Court. If convicted of the charge of murder on a federal facility, Russell could be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Investigators said they were confident that Shirley Russell had been killed but would not discuss what kind of circumstantial evidence would form the basis of their case.

"She had an extremely good reputation," said Gregory G. Golden of the Naval Investigative Service. "It would have been totally out of her nature just to take off. No doubt in our mind that she met with foul play."

Shirley Russell, an administrator for the officer training program at Quantico, was last seen March 4, 1989, according to law enforcement officials. She had separated from her husband just a few weeks earlier, after having been married for about a year and a half.

Though Robert Russell was living off base and Shirley Russell had moved to the Quantico bachelor quarters, they returned the weekend of March 4 to the apartment they had shared on base to finish cleaning it out, according to law enforcement officials.

"She was due to report to duty on the morning of the 6th, Monday morning, and obviously she didn't report," said Golden.

Shortly after Shirley Russell's disappearance, Robert Russell left a teaching job at North Stafford High School and returned to his home town of Mahonoy City in eastern Pennsylvania.

James E. Mull of the FBI said a task force of FBI, Investigative Service, and local authorities conducted an extensive search for Russell.

"There was a lot of effort expended by a lot of different agencies, including terrain searches, air searches. They even searched mine shafts in Pennsylvania," said Mull. "All indications are that she is dead."

--------------------------
The Washington Post
May 1, 1991, Wednesday, Final Edition
SECTION: FIRST SECTION; PAGE A9
HEADLINE: 'Murder' Entry Outlined Book, Mother Says;
Woman Testifies At Ex-Marine's Trial
BYLINE: Robert F. Howe, Washington Post Staff Writer

BODY:
The mother of murder defendant Robert P. Russell testified in federal court yesterday that a 26-step formula for murder drafted by her son was the outline of a mystery novel they were writing about the fictional death of a Marine Corps officer's wife.

Patricia Russell, testifying in U.S. District Court in Alexandria on her son's behalf, told the court that they never determined "whether she was going to be murdered by the members of a gang or be killed in an accident -- I say 'she' meaning the spouse of the man in the book."

Robert Russell, a former Marine Corps captain, has been charged with the slaying of Shirley Gibbs Russell, a Marine captain who, prosecution witnesses say, was last seen March 4, 1989, near the Quantico residential quarters the Russells shared before Shirley Russell demanded a separation. A key piece of evidence in the case is a computer entry labeled "Murder" in which Robert Russell listed what prosecutors have described as the 26 ingredients of a "recipe for murder."

Shirley Russell's body has not been found, although federal law enforcement officials conducted extensive searches of abandoned mines in Pennsylvania not far from where Robert Russell's parents live. Witnesses testified that Robert Russell called his parents from Quantico the day his wife disappeared and paid his parents a surprise visit later that night at their St. Clair home.

Patricia Russell acknowledged yesterday that Robert's computer entry was first discovered in early 1988, when her son resigned from the Marine Corps rather than face charges of unexplained absences and improper expense reimbursements.

Under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence J. Leiser, Russell also said that she had finished "about two chapters" of the murder mystery she and her son were working on.

"We were both writing a book about a Marine Corps couple -- officers in the Marine Corps. That's where the computer disc came in," Russell said. "I was going to help him with the female aspects of the story -- why and where a woman would hide jewelry, that sort of thing."

Russell added, however, that when she learned that her son was being investigated by Marine Corps officials in early 1988, she threw away her transcripts of the unfinished novel.

Russell said she had always encouraged her children to write, though none of their works has ever been published.

She added that Robert began writing short stories when he was a child and that during the last few years, he attempted to write two books other than the murder mystery, a children's book and a story about a Marine officer who is drummed out of the service because of his drinking problem.

Testimony this morning will begin the sixth day of the trial.

-----------------------------------
The Washington Post
May 4, 1991, Saturday, Final Edition
SECTION: METRO; PAGE B1
HEADLINE: Husband Convicted Of Quantico Murder;
Jury Rejects Theory That Wife Is Still Alive
BYLINE: Robert F. Howe, Washington Post Staff Writer

BODY:
A former Marine Corps officer who wrote a 26-step "recipe for murder" was convicted yesterday of giving life to his fantasies by shooting his wife to death, then 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, adding that 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 yesterday at lunch time that they were deadlocked and later asking 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 take another look. Russell faces a mandatory life prison sentence. Ignoring defense claims that Shirley Russell is still alive and in hiding, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence J. Leiser said Robert Russell, 33, "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, no blood was discovered in the Quantico storeroom where Russell is alleged to have shot his wife, and the .25-caliber pistol Russell bought days before the slaying has not been recovered.

But what investigators did find, Leiser reminded the jury 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.

Leiser offered a different view.

"It says what it says," Leiser said, pointing to a five-foot chart duplicating the 26 phrases taken from Russell's computer diary. "Is there any doubt in your mind that this man was planning to murder his wife?"

"Make it look as if she left," Leiser read, noting that Russell told investigators after his wife's disappearance that he last saw her walking to a store five miles away in 40-degree weather to buy a can of paint.

"How do I kill her????" Leiser said, reading No. 15 on the list and highlighting the fact that it was written in the first person, "not as if Jake in the novel was asking himself how he would kill someone."

Defense attorneys Frederick J. Fanelli and Drewry B. Hutcheson Jr. accused the government of character assassination for harping on Robert Russell's many affairs and capitalizing on his drinking problem, which led to a "less-than-honorable" discharge from the Marines in 1988.

The defense lawyers, who announced that they would appeal the verdict, also argued that their evidence suggested that Shirley Russell is still alive.

A handful of defense witnesses testified that they had seen or talked with Shirley Russell hours or, in one instance, weeks after her disappearance.

Darnisha Thompson, a civilian employee at Quantico who said she knew Russell, testified that she saw the captain at Springfield Mall three to five weeks after she failed to turn up for duty and was reported missing.

Thompson said she saw the woman on the other side of the concourse: "She looked at me in the eyes, and it looked as if she knew. She knew I had seen her." Thompson added that the woman, who appeared "disarrayed," vanished before she and her husband could catch up to her.

Three other witnesses reported sightings. One, a clerk at Russell's Quantico apartment complex, said he saw her use a pay phone in the building about 4 p.m. the day she disappeared. A cashier at a Pennsylvania convenience store said Russell came into her store to buy a lottery ticket that same day about 6 p.m., and a Dumfries woman said she saw Russell two days later walking through the snow alongside one of Quantico's main streets.

Hutcheson said the sightings supported the theory that Shirley Russell had grown weary of her demanding military life and the broken relationship with Robert Russell and had chosen to escape it all by going underground. "Shirley's decision was to drop out, to step out of society, to get out of Dodge," Hutcheson said.

Sandy Flynt, a key prosecution witness, said she was not surprised when she heard Shirley Russell had disappeared. Flynt, a teacher at the Stafford County high school where Robert Russell worked in early 1989, said that she and Russell had been having an affair for months when he announced that he was going to kill his wife.

"They had had an argument the night before, and he told me, 'Don't be surprised six months down the road after we get divorced to find out that Shirley is dead. I'm going to kill her,' " Flynt testified.

Flynt said she tried to persuade Russell that the idea was crazy because he would be an obvious suspect. Flynt said Russell had an answer: " 'They may suspect me, they may think I did it, but they won't be able to prove it.' "

Richard
03-24-2006, 10:45 AM
The Washington Post
July 21, 1992, Tuesday, Final Edition
SECTION: METRO; PAGE D5; AROUND THE REGION
HEADLINE: Court Affirms Husband's Guilt In Quantico Captain's Death
BYLINE: From news services and staff reports

BODY:
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld yesterday the first-degree murder conviction of Robert Peter Russell for killing his estranged wife, an officer in the Marines, whose body was never found.

Capt. Shirley Gibbs Russell disappeared March 4, 1989, from the quarters for married officers at the Quantico Marine Base. The prosecutor argued that Robert Russell, who recently had been discharged from the Marines for disciplinary reasons, shot his estranged wife, then dumped her body in a mine shaft or sinkhole in Pennsylvania.

A key piece of evidence was what prosecutors described as "a recipe for murder," a computer diary prepared by Russell in which he listed 26 steps to the perfect crime, plus the notation: "How do I kill her????"

Russell was convicted on May 3, 1991, in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole last August.

The federal appeals court in Richmond rejected Russell's argument that there was not enough evidence to support the conviction.

--------------------
For the full text of the appellate court decision, including a lot of factual information on this case, check out the following link:


http://us.geocities.com/movies_based_on_true_stories/ROBERT_PETER_RUSSELL1.html

Richard
03-28-2006, 10:01 AM
Here is the entry for Robert Peter Russell from the Federal Bureau of Prisons Locator.

Name: ROBERT PETER RUSSELL
Inmate number: 17281-083
Age: 48
Race: White
Sex: M
Sentence: LIFE

Incarcerated in Federal Penitentiary at ALLENWOOD USP in PA.
Link:
http://www.bop.gov/iloc2/InmateFinderServlet?Transaction=NameSearch&needingMoreList=false&LastName=Russell&Middle=peter&FirstName=Robert&Race=U&Sex=U&Age=&x=26&y=21

wondering22
05-27-2006, 10:03 AM
The Doe Network: Case File 1926DFVA

The Doe Network: Case File 1926DFVA. 1 Russell, circa 1989. Shirley Gibbs Russell Missing since March 4, 1989 from Quantico, Virginia ...
http://www.doenetwork.us/cases/1926dfva.html


The last sentence of the description summary reads, "Her driver's license and passport also are missing."

Richard
05-27-2006, 05:26 PM
The Doe Network: Case File 1926DFVA

The Doe Network: Case File 1926DFVA. 1 Russell, circa 1989. Shirley Gibbs Russell Missing since March 4, 1989 from Quantico, Virginia ...
http://www.doenetwork.us/cases/1926dfva.html
The last sentence of the description summary reads, "Her driver's license and passport also are missing."
It is pretty clear that there is one person who knows exactly where she is. But, he chooses to live the lie every day by not saying where she is.

wondering22
05-27-2006, 05:59 PM
It is pretty clear that there is one person who knows exactly where she is. But, he chooses to live the lie every day by not saying where she is.

He & His Mom are such revoltingly disgusting human beings, that I was really hoping that MAYBE the inclusion of that info about the missing i.d. documents meant that MAYBE she'd gotten away and is now living happily somewhere else.

However, she obviously isn't the "type" of person to simply run away, much less live under an assumed identity.

Say, are there any sociological and/or psychological textbooks about people who actually do leave their lives behind and emerge with a new identity elsewhere, faraway?

I'm thinkng that there must be alot of shared personality attributes amongst them, because it's simply so strange an avenue to actually take. Reading about it in a novel is one thing, but living it, living A TOTAL LIE, is entirely something else --- but surely not all of them are "conventional" sociopaths.....

Richard
05-27-2006, 06:14 PM
He & His Mom are such revoltingly disgusting human beings, that I was really hoping that MAYBE the inclusion of that info about the missing i.d. documents meant that MAYBE she'd gotten away and is now living happily somewhere else.

However, she obviously isn't the "type" of person to simply run away, much less live under an assumed identity.

Say, are there any sociological and/or psychological textbooks about people who actually do leave their lives behind and emerge with a new identity elsewhere, faraway?

I'm thinkng that there must be alot of shared personality attributes amongst them, because it's simply so strange an avenue to actually take. Reading about it in a novel is one thing, but living it, living A TOTAL LIE, is entirely something else --- but surely not all of them are "conventional" sociopaths.....
There are certainly people who change their identities and live total lies under false identities. These people are known as Career Criminals, and a number of other names. That is what makes this case so particularly disgusting in regard to Mr. Russell and his supporters.

A Naval Officer's integrity is never questioned. It is assumed. Mr. Russell, while sitting around enjoying his color TV for the past 15 years, at taxpayer expense, WOULD HAVE US BELIEVE that Captain Shirley Gibbs Russel DESERTED the United States Marine Corps, and has remained away without a word for all this time. Meanwhile, that he is completely innocent and wrongly incarcerated.

Not only did he kill her and hide her body - and was convicted of that in a fair and open trial - he continues to withhold the location of her body so that she can be given a proper funeral with Military Honors. Maybe they can transfer him to Guantanamo Bay...

wondering22
05-27-2006, 08:28 PM
There are certainly people who change their identities and live total lies under false identities. These people are known as Career Criminals, and a number of other names.

Really? I didn't know that assuming a false identity was a crime; however, this whole issue of missing individuals, 1000s OF MISSING PEOPLE, it's simply mind boggling to imagine that this many people have vanished.

So I've wondered if SOME cases are people who are living under the auspices of the Witness Protection Programs, or if some people - like the young teenaged couple missing from a Grateful Dead concert whom some people believe to still be alive - if they are - but if they are alive, they couldn't possibly be using their real names, or they'd be found long ago.


It's very hard to believe that this man has ANY supporters, anywhere; were I him, I think the only place I'd feel even remotely safe, is in prison...

meggilyweggily
06-08-2006, 12:11 AM
It is my understanding that the IDs of missing people -- driver's licenses, passports, SSNs, etc -- are usually "flagged" so if someone tries to use them the police are notified and go and question the person. If Shirley really wanted, for some reason, to cut all ties, it would be silly to take her ID with her anyway. She wouldn't be needing it anymore.

Richard
06-08-2006, 10:24 AM
It is my understanding that the IDs of missing people -- driver's licenses, passports, SSNs, etc -- are usually "flagged" so if someone tries to use them the police are notified and go and question the person. If Shirley really wanted, for some reason, to cut all ties, it would be silly to take her ID with her anyway. She wouldn't be needing it anymore.
And Robert certainly didn't want to get caught holding them. He probably disposed of them in a separate place from where he hid her body, to make any later identification of her body more difficult. The fact that they have never turned up tends to indicate that he did in fact kill her.

docwho3
06-09-2006, 08:33 AM
It has occurred to me to ask if it was extremely likely that she had the missing documents on her when she disappeared at the time of the crime or whether it was possible the documents were moved after the fact to give the appearance of her having left and to create reasonable doubt in the mind of a jury which he must have known would be reviewing the case evidence someday?

I don't have a preference but just wanted to ask the question.

Richard
06-09-2006, 11:27 AM
It has occurred to me to ask if it was extremely likely that she had the missing documents on her when she disappeared at the time of the crime or whether it was possible the documents were moved after the fact to give the appearance of her having left and to create reasonable doubt in the mind of a jury which he must have known would be reviewing the case evidence someday?

I don't have a preference but just wanted to ask the question.
It is most likely that Shirley had her military ID and her drivers license with her when she met with Robert. She had to have them to drive and to enter the base. The passport is another matter. While it is possible that she also had that with her, it is more likely that it was kept in a safe place at home or in a safe deposit box until needed for overseas travel. If she had boarded a plane for an overseas flight, she would have been required to show her passport. But there is no evidence to suggest that she did so.

Richard
03-08-2007, 01:12 PM
18 years have now passed since Captain Shirley Gibbs Russell, USMC was murdered and her body hidden.

Richard
02-08-2008, 02:41 PM
Bumping case up. March 4th will mark the 19th anniversary of her disappearance.

KarlK
03-24-2008, 07:33 PM
Shirley Gibbs Russell
Missing since March 4, 1989 from Quantico, Virginia
Classification: Endangered Missing

Vital Statistics
Date Of Birth: September 22, 1957
Age at Time of Disappearance: 29 years old

DOB and date of disappearance don't add up to posted age.

Richard
03-28-2008, 02:14 PM
DOB and date of disappearance don't add up to posted age.
--------------

You are right about the math not working. Below is the information as it appears on the Doenetwork website. She was probably 31 years old at the time rather than 29.


--------------

Shirley Gibbs Russell
Missing since March 4, 1989 from Quantico, Virginia
Classification: Endangered Missing

Vital Statistics


Date Of Birth: September 22, 1957
Age at Time of Disappearance: 29 years old
Height and Weight at Time of Disappearance: 5'11"; 130 lbs.
Distinguishing Characteristics: Black female. Black hair; brown eyes.
AKA: Captain Shirley Gibbs

Circumstances of Disappearance

On March 4, 1989, Shirley Gibbs Russell, a captain in the United States Marine Corps, disappeared from her married officers' quarters on the Quantico, Virginia, military base. Her husband, Robert Peter Russell, was subsequently charged with her murder.

Shirley had separated from her husband just a few weeks earlier, after having been married for about a year and a half. Though Robert Russell was living off base and Shirley Russell had moved to the Quantico bachelor quarters, they returned the weekend of March 4th to the apartment they had shared on base to finish cleaning it out, according to law enforcement officials.

The Government's case against Russell comprised only circumstantial evidence. Neither the victim's body nor a murder weapon was ever recovered, and there were no witnesses to the crime. The Government's theory was that Russell, a former Marine Corps officer who had recently been discharged for disciplinary reasons, shot his wife behind the ear with a .25 caliber pistol while the two were in a storage shed adjacent to their quarters, and then dumped her body into a mine shaft in Pennsylvania. The jury apparently accepted this theory; it returned a guilty verdict on May 3, 1991. Russell was sentenced to life imprisonment on August 2, 1991.

Gibbs' credit card, savings, and checking accounts have all been inactive since her disappearance, and the property that she placed in storage has remained undisturbed. Exhaustive searches for Gibbs' body in Quantico, Virginia, and St. Clair, Pennsylvania, have been unsuccessful. Her drivers license and passport are also missing.

Investigators
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:

Naval Criminal Investigative Service Headquarters, Washington, DC
202-433-9225
1-800-479-9685

Agency Case Number: 93-0003
Please refer to this number when contacting any agency with information regarding this case.

Source Information:
The Washington Post
Robert Peter Russell
Court Opinions and Actions Taken
The Doe Network: Case File 1926DFVA

LINK:

http://www.doenetwork.org/cases/1926dfva.html

KarlK
03-28-2008, 10:54 PM
--------------

You are right about the math not working. Below is the information as it appears on the Doenetwork website. She was probably 31 years old at the time rather than 29.

Thanks, I was indeed wondering which of the DOB or reported age was wrong since there was no doubt about when Capt. Russell had disappeared.

Richard
06-24-2012, 09:11 PM
Bumping. Although Captain Gibbs Russell's husband Robert Peter Russell has been convicted and sentenced for murdering her, her body has never been found.

One would think that Robert would tell someone where he disposed of her body. He won't be free anytime soon.

Richard
10-28-2012, 11:43 PM
Bumping case up. Missing for over 23 years.

KateB
03-05-2014, 03:23 PM
Shirley has been missing now for 25 years.

RP Russell is in recent news for losing another appeal on his 1991 first-degree murder conviction, the first ever recorded in US federal court history in which there was no crime scene, body or weapon.

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2014/02/schuylkill_county_native_loses.html

Russell, who lived in Mahanoy City before his conviction, was found guilty of killing his estranged wife, Marine Capt. Shirley Gibbs Russell, on March 4, 1989, at the Quantico, Va., quarters they shared. Prosecutors alleged the body was dumped in an abandoned coal mine in Pennsylvania.

The judge said he dismissed the appeal to allow Russell to seek permission from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia to file a new one there.