Convicted killer from MI up for execution

Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Michigan man is up for execution after the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would reinstate the death penalty.

It will be the first time the department will execute federal death row inmates since 2003.

Marvin Gabrion is one of 62 death row inmates currently awaiting execution. He is the only one from Michigan.

In 2002, Gabrion was convicted of the 1997 murder of 19-year-old Rachel Timmerman. At the time, Gabrion was awaiting trial for sexually assaulting Timmerman.

Investigators say Gabrion kidnapped her, tied her up while she was still alive, weighed her down with cinderblocks and dumped her in a lake near Big Rapids.

Her 11-month-old daughter, Shannon Verhage, was believed to be with her at the time. The baby was never found.

An undated photo of Rachel Timmerman and her 11-month-old daughter, Shannon Verhage. (July 26, 2019)
An undated photo of Rachel Timmerman and her 11-month-old daughter, Shannon Verhage. (July 26, 2019)

Police suspected Gabrion was responsible for three other people who went missing, but he never confessed to any of the allegations.

The 11-month old’s paternal family says it’s something that has left them with a deep wound.

“She loved going for rides in my car. It was the only thing that would put her to sleep,” said Rick Verhage, Shannon’s father, as he spoke about memories of his daughter. “She was fat, chubby, had rolls everywhere. I was really just getting to know her.”

Verhage says he blocked a lot out of his memory because it was too painful to think about the situation. 

He says even though more than 20 years have passed — he still gets emotional about it.

“I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Nobody should ever have to go through it,” Verhage said.

Gabrion is currently being held at a high-security federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Verhage says it’s upsetting to think taxpayers have had to pay for him to live after what he did.

“Rachel was so happy that she was a mom. She told me it was the greatest thing that ever happened to her,” Verhage said. “She’s not here anymore and he is.”

Verhage says this decision could finally mean closure for his family.

But if Gabrion doesn’t confess, they may never find out what happened to baby Shannon.

“I don’t really go along with the death penalty, but I feel you should pay for what you’ve done,” Verhage said. “I used to think yea I’d feel better when he goes, but then he’s essentially taking her with him.”

Department of Justice set execution dates for five death row inmates. Gabrion was not one of them, but the department says they’ll be scheduling more executions soon.

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