Prisoner accused of murdering Temple friends caught in Conroe

Local News

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The search is over for a suspect who escaped from a private prisoner transport and is now tied to the murders of two people from Temple, according to officials with the Texas Department of Public Safety. 

A spokesperson with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said K9’s with the Wynne Unit in Huntsville found 44-year-old Cedric Joseph Marks hiding in a neighborhood trash can in Conroe just before 5 p.m. Seventeen agencies searched for him for nine hours. 

Marks is charged with capital murder of multiple persons in connection with the deaths of Michael Swearingin, 32, and Jenna Scott, 28, who went missing in early January. Their bodies were found a week later in shallow graves in Oklahoma.

He is also charged with providing a false report to police, violating a protective order, felony burglary and interfering with an emergency call. 

Images from Bell County 

Authorities at a press conference Sunday explained the two murder warrants for Marks were out of Bell County and carried out by the Texas Rangers. 

Marks escaped wearing an orange jumpsuit and restraints in the 800 block of North Loop 336 West in Conroe and was still wearing the torn jail garb when he was found. 

The Texas Prisoner Transport Services reported to Conroe Police Department at about 7:20 a.m. Sunday that Marks escaped their transport van. Authorities said in a press conference Sunday that the transport van was stopped at a McDonald’s restaurant at 801 North Loop 336 West in Conroe to get food for the prisoners when Marks ran from authorities, heading east. 

The prison van was transporting 10 prisoners including Marks and two guards and there was only one guard in the van when Marks made a break for it.

Neighbors lined the street where Marks was arrested, some had photographed Marks arrest and said officers had searched their homes. 

Darwin Lopez who lives next door to where Marks was found explained that his dog started barking earlier this morning, but it wasn’t until the officer descended on the backyard next door that he realized Marks might be there. 

“He was like, he didn’t care, he’d already gotten caught,” said Lopez of Marks’ demeanor

Surveillance video and tips led search teams to do a grid search of the neighborhood just minutes away from the McDonalds. A resident came home and asked the search team for another search of his home. Immediately after, the search team and the K9 found Marks in the trashcan in the backyard. Authorities said Marks surrendered immediately and seemed very tired from crouching in the trashcan. 

The law enforcement agencies involved believe Marks had been in the trashcan all day and that he did not know anyone in the area. 

Jeff Christy, the Conroe Police Chief said Marks was restrained in the prison van with leg restraints, hand restraints, and belly restraints that attached the three together. 

“It is unknown at this time how many of those were connected when he escaped or how he was able to remove any of those,” Christy said. 

“I’m extremely excited and I’m really excited for all the law enforcement assistance we received from all across South Texas,” Christy said. 

Marks is currently being held in Montgomery County for questioning and will likely stay there until safe transportation can be arranged for him to Bell County. All the other prisoners in the van will also be questioned by investigators to figure out how Marks escaped. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office explained that it may take some time to process all the evidence and interviews they need to do. 

Marks was in transport from Grand Rapids Michigan after being captured by the U.S. Marshall’s office for a warrant for burglarizing his former girlfriend’s home in August of 2018. His ex-girlfriend went missing in January and her body (as well as the body of her friend) were found in Oklahoma. 

According to a post from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Marks has three pending murder charges against him. They also report that Marks is a professional MMA fighter and is considered extremely dangerous.

According to KPRC in Houston, the private transport van which Marks was in stopped at a McDonald’s to get food. When they get back to the van, they saw Cedric’s shackles and shirt were in the back of the van and he was gone. 

Marks was arrested in Kent County, Michigan, Jan. 8 on a burglary warrant out of Temple related to breaking into his former girlfriend Jenna Scott’s home. Scott was one of the two friends who went missing from Temple and were later found dead in Oklahoma.

Kent County jail officials told KXAN’s sister station FOX44 a transfer company picked Marks up at 10:46 a.m. Central Thursday morning to bring him back to Texas.

Marks waived extradition earlier this month.

Jenna Scott and Michael Swearingin were last seen together at Swearingin’s Temple home and were reported missing Jan. 4. One day later, Swearingin’s car was found in Austin.  Marks wife was arrested for harboring him in Michigan after this happened and his girlfriend was arrested  for “tampering with evidence”, an affidavit says Marks’ girlfriend was involved with  “leaving Swearingin’s vehicle in Austin in hopes to conceal it from law enforcement.”

On Tuesday, Marks’ girlfriend returned to Bell County after being arrested in Muskegon, Michigan.

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone who sees Marks to contact law enforcement immediately. They say that Marks was not in their custody at the time he escaped. MCSO advised the public to follow their social media for updates. 

The police department in Bloomington Minnesota has been made aware of these developments as well. Bloomington Police Deputy Chief Mike Hartley told KXAN Sunday that Marks is a person of interest (but not a suspect) in the case of his former girlfriend’s disappearance in 2009 in Minnesota. April Pease disappeared in September 2009. She and Marks had a child together. 

“Our investigators are in touch with local authorities in Texas, we will follow up on any lead that comes,” Hartley told KXAN Sunday.

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