TAMPA — A Tampa man accused of the gruesome killing of a homeless man in a church parking lot was found not guilty by reason of insanity Wednesday.
Michael Marston, 35, was charged with first-degree murder, burglary, violently obstructing a police officer and littering — the outline of what authorities said was a bizarre series of crimes in the predawn hours of Aug. 16, 2012.
Police said Marston stole $250,000 worth of building materials, which were found strewn across the parking lot of Christ the King Catholic Church at 621 S Dale Mabry Highway. Also in the church parking lot was the body of Rolando Rivera-Arroyo, a 73-year-old transient.
Marston stabbed Rivera-Arroyo in the neck before running into him with his white Toyota Corolla and dragging him around the parking lot, police said.
Three doctors who evaluated Marston determined that he was insane at the time of the crime, Assistant Public Defender Jennifer Spradley said during a hearing on Wednesday. She did not disclose the specifics of the diagnosis, and the doctors' evaluations were placed under seal by Judge Samantha Ward.
The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office did not protest the insanity finding. Ward ordered that Marston be placed in a state hospital for treatment.
Spradley and several of Marston's family members who were in court Wednesday declined to comment after the hearing.
Father Len Plazewski, pastor of Christ the King, said Rivera-Arroyo had hung around the church in an unobtrusive way for years and was a familiar face to parishioners.
"Obviously, we were all very saddened by his death," Plazewski said. "He was a gentle soul."
Plazewski said he did not know Marston but that prosecutors' decision to allow hospital treatment rather than imprisonment for the defendant was "in accord with Catholic moral teaching."
Said Plazewski, "If a man needs help, and it sounds like the state made that judgment, then we certainly support the state's effort to do the right thing."
Peter Jamison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3337. Follow him on Twitter @petejamison.