Eric Marks, and the 39 deputy marshals who worked for him, always got their man (or woman).
“We’ve had prisoners escape from local jails. We catch them all,” says Marks ’86 MA, former chief deputy marshal in the U.S. Marshals Service for eastern Washington. “We’re dogged and we don’t give up.”
As the region’s chief deputy marshal from 2002 to last December, Marks led the deputy marshals as they hunted fugitives and provided enforcement and protection for the federal courts.
He joins a long legacy of deputy marshals that includes legends like Bat Masterson, Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, and his brothers. In 1789 President George Washington appointed the first 13 U.S. Marshals. Today the duties remain much the same: protecting judges, protecting witnesses, transporting prisoners, and finding fugitives.
“What they did back in the 1800s, we still do,” says Marks. “We go to the local jails that hold our prisoners and pick them up for court.” But now instead of a carriage with bars, they use a secure van.
Marks isn’t the only Coug to excel in the Marshals Service. He studied criminal justice with John Shoemaker ’84, ’85 MA, assistant chief deputy marshal in Oregon, and David Miller ’83, chief deputy marshal in western Washington.
His studies at WSU under criminal justice professor Marilyn Matthews gave him an understanding of theory to guide his decisions. He also credits faculty like James Short, sociologist and now professor emeritus, whose groundbreaking work “really propelled my mind to look beyond the arrest and more into how people act and why they come into gangs.”
As he finished his degree, Marks wanted to join a federal law enforcement agency, but wasn’t sure whether that would be the FBI, CIA, or State Department. Then he met Jack Cluff, a deputy marshal stationed in Moscow, Idaho. “He was a quite a character. He might have told some tall tales but he really got me hooked,” says Marks. The range of duties appealed to Marks. He joined in 1988, starting in the Seattle office.
Fugitive investigations were the best part of the job, says Marks. “It’s dangerous and frustrating, but an adrenaline rush. You work with a close team of people daily, and start thinking like everybody else does.”
A few years ago, he was involved with a fugitive case with deep ties to the WSU community. Frederick Russell, while intoxicated, hit a car full of WSU students on the Moscow-Pullman Highway in 2001, killing three and injuring others. Russell fled the country and the U.S. Marshals put him on the 15 Most Wanted list, the first time on the list for a drunk driver.
Marks remembers the message from a man in Dublin, Ireland, who had seen Russell working in a clothing shop. The Marshals worked closely with the Irish police to arrest and extradite Russell. They brought him back to Whitman County where he was tried and convicted.
“It showed the families we never give up,” says Marks. “Sometimes it’s hard to find people who don’t want to be found in this world of billions.”
Marks retired after 27 years with the service. He lives in Spokane with his wife Katherine Burnett ’86 DVM. Their daughter Raeanne is a senior in computer science at WSU and son Ben is at Eastern Washington University.
Reflecting on his career, Marks is proudest of the work he did promoting inter-agency relations, doubling the number of deputy marshals in eastern Washington, and improving officer training and equipment to keep them safe. “Everybody goes home at the end of the day,” he says. “That’s the big goal.”