James Patterson’s Til Murder Do Us Part is investigating the bizarre case of Eric Wright, who in 1980, murdered Lester Marks and stole his gold bars before faking his death and assuming a new identity.
On August 7, 1980, fishermen spotted a badly decomposed body floating in a canal near Tracy, California. The body was eventually identified as 66-year-old Lester Marks, a businessman and petty crook from San Francisco who specialized in gold and jewelry.
A short time later, Eric Wright, a former rising star in the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department and an employee of the Consolidated Mines company, vanished without a trace. His abandoned and bloodstained car was located at a railway station.
Wright had murdered Marks, stolen his gold bars, faked his death, and fled to Denver, Colorado. He changed his name to Steve Marcum and began working in a restaurant, where he first met Kathi Spiars.
The name Steve Marcum came from an infant who had died in 1951. Wright got a friend to forge him a birth certificate.
Wright and Spiars began a romantic relationship and were soon married. Spiars didn’t know her new husband’s real name or where he really came from, and he had muddied the waters by telling constant lies about his past.
He told his wife he had worked as a hitman for the CIA but was now hiding from the secret agency. Wright also explained his wealth and gold bars by claiming they were inherited from his father. Spiars later admitted that his mysterious past had excited her.
Eric Wright told his wife he was a murderer
Wright also told his wife that he had committed a murder in California while defending a woman and had even spent time in jail.
Over time, Spiars began to have doubts about her husband’s lies. However, she felt his talk of murder had a ring of truth to it.
After thirteen years, the pair divorced, and Spiars contacted a Lt. John Huber from the San Joaquin’s County Sheriff’s Office to ask him if there were any unsolved murders from the Bay Area in 1980. Spiars also told him about the gold bars in Marcum/Wright’s possession.
Huber began an investigation into Marcum/Wright, and by 1997, he felt he had enough evidence to attempt to prosecute the murderer. At this point, Wright had become aware he was under investigation and had fled to Mexico.
Huber worked with the FBI and Mexican law enforcement to have Wright extradited back to California, and in 2002 he went on trial for murder.
A lack of evidence hampered the prosecution, but Wright eventually agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter. Wright was ordered to pay $55,000 and to spend a few years in state prison.
In 2008, Wright reportedly died from a heart attack in his sleep and was cremated shortly after. However, San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Thomas Testa has voiced concern that Wright may have, once again, faked his own death and fled the authorities.
More from James Patterson on Investigation Discovery
In rural East Texas in 2003, a neighborly dispute ended in violence and murder when a drunken Barney Fuller walked the short distance to the house of Nathan and Annette Copeland and opened fire with an assault rifle. He then broke in and killed the couple before turning his gun on their 14-year-old son.
Previously, James Patterson examined the murder of Zachary Sanders, who was killed when his girlfriend, Natasha White, mowed him down in her car outside a bar in Orange, New Jersey.
James Patterson’s Til Murder Do Us Part airs at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.